Intensifying their protest against the Centre’s newly enacted farm laws, the agitating farmers have called for a nationwide Bharat Bandh today. Notably, the Bharat Bandh has been called by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) on the completion of four months of farmers’ protest at Delhi borders. The SKM has planned several protests over the days, which includes “burning of anti-farmer laws during Holika Dehan”.
The SKM said that all shops, malls, markets and commercial establishments will remain shut on Friday in view of its ‘Bharat Bandh’ call on completion of four months of farmers’ protest at Delhi’s borders against the Centre’s three new farm laws.
According to the Samkyukta Kisan Morcha, the nationwide shutdown will start at 6 am and it will be in force up to 6 pm across the country on March 26 which marks four months of the farmer agitation at Delhi's three borders -- Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri.
Alternative routes to Delhi’s borders, which were opened after other roads to the national capital were closed in the wake of the farmers’ protests, will also remain shut during the Bandh, it added.
In a video message, SKM leader Darshan Pal said that supplies of vegetables and milk will also be stopped by the protesting farmers.
"We appeal to the people of the country to make this Bharat Bandh a success and honour their 'Annadata'," farmer leader Darshan Pal said.
What is Samkyukta Kisan Morcha?
The Samkyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of protesting unions, appealed to protesting farmers to be peaceful and not get involved in any kind of illegitimate debate and conflict during the 'bandh'.
What’s closed and what’s not?
"All shops, malls, markets and institutions will remain closed under complete Bharat Bandh. All minor and big roads and trains will be blocked. All services will remain suspended except for ambulance and other essential services. The effect of Bharat Bandh will be observed inside Delhi as well," SKM said in a statement.
Senior farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said that road and rail transport will be blocked, claiming that markets will also remain closed.
Rajewal said that trade unions from organised and unorganised sectors, and transport and other associations have extended their support for the 'Bharat Bandh' call of farmer organisations on March 26.
"Farmers will block rail tracks in various places. Markets and transport services will be closed during 'Bharat Bandh'," Rajewal said.
He said that however, emergency services like ambulance and fire will be allowed during the nationwide shutdown.
The farmer leader said that in poll-bound Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Puducherry, the Samkyukta Kisan Morcha has appealed to people to not observe 'Bandh' there.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for the minimum support price on their crops.
Confederation of All India Traders, which claimed representation of eight crore traders in the the country, said that markets will remain open on March 26 as it is not participating in the 'Bharat Bandh'.
"We are not going to participate in 'Bharat Bandh' tomorrow.
Markets will remain open in Delhi and other parts of the country. The ongoing deadlock can be resolved only through a dialogue process. There should be discussions on amendments in the farm laws that can make existing farming profitable," CAIT's national general secretary Praveen Khandelwal told PTI.
The statement issued by the SKM claimed that various farmers' organisations, trade unions, student organizations, bar associations, political parties and representatives of state governments have supported the bandh call of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha.
Farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar, who is also a senior member of Samkyukta Kisan Morcha, said that the major impact of the 'Bharat Bandh' will be felt in Haryana and Punjab.
Kohar said that farmers have appealed to trader associations to close their shops during the nationwide shutdown as the three new agri laws will also affect them indirectly.
What are the demands?
Apart from repealing of three farm laws, the demands of the protesting union include cancellation of all police cases against farmers, withdrawal of electricity bill and pollution bill and reduction in prices of diesel, petrol and gas.
So far, there have been 11 rounds of talks between the protesting unions and government, but deadlock continued as both sides stuck to their stand.
In January, the government had offered to suspend the farm laws for 12-18 months, which was rejected by the farmer unions.