While unions of farmers predominantly from Punjab and Haryana have appealed to the people to observe Bharat Bandh tomorrow to demand the withdrawal of the three reformed agricultural laws, the ruling parties in only eight states, all non-NDA, may ensure that the local economies remain shut on 8 December. Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee has lent her support to the Punjab-Haryana farmers’ demands — even though there is no news of farmers of her state complaining against the reforms — but has not supported the Bharat Bandh.
The governments of Delhi (ruled by the AAP), Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh (INC), Telangana (TRS), Kerala (CPM-led LDF), Jharkhand and Maharashtra (coalitions of which the INC is a part).
Bharat Bandh state-wise
There is some support for the Bharat Bandh among mandi traders in Rajasthan. Everything else except petrol pumps, hospitals, medical shops will be closed in the state. Its largest fruit and vegetable market in Jaipur will stay closed tomorrow.
The Rajasthan Foods Trade Association has called for the closure of all the 247 grain markets in the state, supporting the bandh. Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal, an NDA ally from RLP that is known to take contrarian stands every now and then, has started preparing to leave for Delhi in support of the rich farmers’ movement. He said his supporters would meet in Kotputli on 12 December and then leave for Delhi.
While it no longer rules the state, the INC, in its support for the Bharat Bandh in Madhya Pradesh, has issued a directive asking all district committees to make the strike effective. At the same time, the state government of the BJP wants to keep all the 255 mandis of the state, including those in Bhopal, operational on the day of Bharat Bandh.
Petrol pumps in INC-ruled Punjab will stay closed from 8 AM to 5 PM. Paramjit Singh, head of the Punjab Petrol Pump Dealers Association made the announcement. However, vehicles for emergency services can get fuel from the pumps. There are 3,470 petrol pumps in Punjab, of which more than 4 lakh litres of fuel sells every day. Small shopkeepers have come in support of the bandh.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has written on social media that “hardworking” farmers are the pride of the country. The central government has hatched a “conspiracy to make the owner of the country a labourer”.
All the three parties in the Mahavikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra — the Shiv Sena, INC and NCP — are supporting the bandh. Sell-by-date social activist Anna Hazare will go on a day-long fast in his village Ralegan Siddhi in support of farmers. The administration, in view of the bandh, has decided not to run state transport buses on sensitive routes.
Medical stores and grocery shops will remain open in the state during the bandh. The Milk Producers’ Association has decided to stop supplying milk across the state. Apart from this, there will also be no supply of fruits and vegetables. All the restaurants in the state will remain closed from 11 AM to 3 PM. Market committees in the state’s Nashik, Pune, Ahmednagar and Kolhapur will also be closed tomorrow.
The head of Haryana Petroleum Dealers Welfare Association, Sanjeev Chaudhary said that more than 3,400 petrol pumps of the state would stay closed from 8 AM to 3 PM in support of farmers. Vegetable market associations are joining the bandh. Roadways Corporation officials said they would operate buses if passengers were to be found. Medical stores will stay open. Traders could not agree until late in the evening when markets would open or close.
Uttar Pradesh merchant organisations have not declared support for the bandh. There may be a partial impact of the Bharat Bandh called by some farmer organisations in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh. Farmers’ organisation officials will demonstrate at various places in Lucknow. The Samajwadi Party has announced its support for the farmers. However, no trade organisation in the state has announced support for Bharat Bandh. All markets will open in the city, all transport resources will be open.
The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has said that if anyone tries to forcefully stop the markets and other services during the Bharat Bandh, the administration will take legal action against the offenders.
In INC-ruled Chhattisgarh, the ruling party is supporting the bandh. On Tuesday, the shutdown will affect almost all districts of Chhattisgarh, including Raipur where the INC has entrusted MLA Vikas Upadhyay with the task of leading the shutdown. In a meeting on Monday, the MLA appealed to all the traders to support the bandh. The party is holding constant meetings with traders.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani (BJP) said strict action would be taken against the protesters if commoners were to face problems during the protest.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, TMC fully supports the farmers’ demands, but Bharat Bandh will not be supported.
Other than the ruling parties, Kamal Haasan’s MNM, Bihar’s RJD, Uttar Pradesh’s BSP and Samajwadi Party, Jammu and Kashmir’s Gupkar Alliance, National Conference and PDP and communist parties, DMK and MDMK are supporting tomorrow’s Bharat Bandh.
‘Bharat Bandh will not disturb people’
Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said that the activists would begin enforcing the strike at 11 AM and observe it until 3 PM so that workers can attend offices without hassle. “By 11 o’clock, most people reach the office and at 3 o’clock they begin winding up,” he said.
Meanwhile, farmer organisations have made it clear that no political party leader would be given a place on the farmers’ platform during Bharat Bandh — reminiscent of the antics of activists of India against Corruption in 2011 in Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan, may of whom established the AAP the next year.
Employees will be able to go to their office as usual, the honchos among activists have assured. They will not be stopped on the way. They said there would be no blockades for ambulances and wedding processions.
The activists assured there would be “no disturbance” during the Bharat Bandh of 8 December. “Demonstrations will be peaceful,” said a farmer from Punjab.
CITU general secretary Prakash Viplav said that during Bharat Bandh all services, except emergency services, will be closed. The communists will attempt to stop trains too. The Bus and Truck Association has called for a day-off. In view of the call for Bharat bandh, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee University (DSPMU) in Jharkhand has postponed its examinations that were supposed to be held in two sittings.
Several meetings, no truce
There have been five meetings between the privileged-but-protesting farmers and the union government on the agricultural laws — to no avail. The farmers are demanding the repeal of the three laws while the central government is asking farmers to settle for additional provisions.
The sixth meeting is to be held again at 11 AM on 9 December between the union leaders and the union government following another set of compromise solutions from the Narendra Modi government.