India woke up on Friday with farmers up in arms across the nation against the contentious agri Bills passed in the monsoon session of Parliament
India woke up on Friday with farmers up in arms across the nation against the contentious agri Bills passed in the monsoon session of Parliament.
While Punjab and Haryana took the lead, no other state could match their spirit. In fact, in Karnataka farmers protests elicited lukewarm responses. In Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh, police and paramilitary forces were ready to deal with any eventuality at the borders.
However, so far it has been peaceful.
In the breadbasket states of Punjab and Haryana emotions ran high. Cutting across party lines, the day-long statewide protests by farmers evoked a huge response and normal life was disrupted. Chandigarh though was near normal.
The activists of several farmer associations were seen asking traders at many places in the Congress-ruled Punjab to keep their shops and business establishments shut to mark the pan-India protest.
Reports of shutdown of shops and other establishments were received from Punjab's Patiala, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Moga, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and other places. Northern Railway cancelled three trains and curtailed the routes of 20 special trains, officials said on Friday.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is still technically an ally of the ruling BJP at the Centre, has demanded that the whole of Punjab should be declared a 'principal market yard' for agricultural produce to ensure that laws based on the three passed agricultural Bills do not apply in the northern state.
"This is the best, the quickest and the most effective way for Punjab to pre-empt the application of the Centre's latest anti-farmer Bills in the state because these will not apply to 'principal market yards' declared by any state government. Therefore, the Punjab government must act without delay," the SAD leader said in a strongly worded statement.
However, the same cannot be said about the rest of India. In poll-bound Bihar, though Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav led a tractor rally on Patna roads, public participation was hardly visible as it was in Punjab and parts of Haryana.
Amid nationwide farmer protests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted on Friday that, "Small and marginal farmers, who constitute 86 percent of those involved in agriculture, will benefit the most from agricultural reforms and the new laws."
The protests are largely against three bills that were recently passed by Parliament in its monsoon session -- The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.