Bharat Bandh: Centre issues countrywide advisory, tells states to tighten security
New Delhi: Farmers protesting against the three farm laws passed by Parliament have called for a 'Bharat Bandh' on December 8, signalling an intensification of their agitation.
The Centre, on the other hand, has asked all states and Union Territories to tighten security during the 'Bharat Bandh', while asserting that peace and tranquillity must be maintained on that day, officials said.
In a countrywide advisory, the Union Home ministry also added that the state governments and UT administrations must ensure that the COVID-19 guidelines issued with regard to health and social distancing are strictly followed.
The states and UTs were told that peace and tranquillity must be maintained during the 'Bharat Bandh' and precautionary measures taken so that no untoward incident takes place anywhere in the country, a Home ministry official said on Monday.
The 'Bharat Bandh' has been called by the farmers' unions who have been protesting the three farm laws enacted in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. Major political parties, such as the Congress, NCP, DMK, SP, TRS and Left, on Sunday, came out in strong support of Tuesday's bandh.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi against the new farm laws.
Talks between the government and protesting farmers remained inconclusive on Saturday even after five rounds of discussions as union leaders stuck to their demand for the repeal of the new farm laws and went on a 'maun vrat' seeking a clear 'yes or no' reply, forcing the Centre to call for another meeting on December 9 to resolve the impasse.
Farmer leaders on Monday said emergency services will not be disturbed during the 'Bharat Bandh', and appealed to their affiliates to not force anyone to observe the shut down against the three recently enacted agriculture-related laws.
Addressing a press conference here, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said the Centre will have to accept the farmers' demand of scrapping the new laws whose passage has sparked protests by thousands of farmers who have been camping at various border points of Delhi for the past 11 days.
The agitating farmers have already announced that they would occupy toll plazas between 11 am to 3 pm during the 'Bharat Bandh'.
Bharatiya Kisan Ekta Sangathan president Jagjit Singh Dallewala appealed to farmers to maintain peace and not to enter into any scuffle with anyone to enforce the bandh.
"People have been coming out in our support own their own. There is no need to force anyone to observe the bandh," he said.
"The 'chakka jam' will end at 3 pm, but the bandh will be observed through the entire day," he said.
The farmer leader said the 'bandh' will be effective across the country, but the major impact will be felt in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
"Emergency services, such as healthcare facilities and ambulances, and marriage processions will be allowed during the bandh," Dallewala said.
"The Modi government will have to accept our demands. We want nothing less than withdrawal of new farm laws," Rajewal asserted.
The BJP's Central ministers, meanwhile, launched scathing attacks on the Opposition on the eve of the all-India farmers' strike, claiming that the massive protest that began in Punjab and Haryana and is threatening to engulf the whole country, has been a result of the Opposition's mechanizations. The BJP accused the Opposition of "shameful double standards", claiming many of them had endorsed these reforms when in power or had supported them in Parliament.
Senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Opposition parties have joined the agitation in a bid to save their existence after being repeatedly rejected by people in different elections across the country.
Prasad said a section of farmers has fallen in the grip of some people with "vested interests" and asserted that the government was working to address their misgivings about the reforms.
He appreciated the protesting farmer unions for not associating their stir with any political parties.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis too hit out at the Opposition.
The Congress, Sharad Pawar's NCP, Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party and several Left groups have backed the strike. In the South, it has the support of Tamil Nadu's DMK and Telangana's ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi and in Jammu and Kashmir, of the People's Alliance.
In Delhi, AAP will hold a symbolic protest in favour of farmers, while in Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress will extend "moral support" to the farmers and stage sit-ins across the state.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday visited the Singhu border and reviewed arrangements made for them by the city government.
Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was on Monday detained by the police after he led a brief sit-in protest in Lucknow even as the administration sealed the road leading to his residence right ahead of his "Kisan Yatra" scheduled in Kannauj district.
Meanwhile, two of the biggest railway unions on Monday pledged their support to the 'Bharat Bandh' on December 8.
The All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) and the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) extended their support to the agitating farmers by calling on their members to hold rallies and demonstrations on December 8 in a show of solidarity with the farmers.
AIRF general secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra met the agitating farmers at Singhu border and assured them that members of the railway union are with them in their fight against the new agriculture laws.
The National Federation of Indian Women head Annie Raja also extended her solidarity saying that 28 women organisations will join the 'Bharat Bandh'.
RSS-backed Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) said it won't support the 'Bharat Bandh' against the Centre's new farm laws, but would like the legislations to go through some "improvements".
Union Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday told a group of peasants backing these legislations that these measures will benefit the peasantry and the agriculture sector and that the government will handle such agitations.
The delegation of 20 "progressive farmers" from Haryana, led by Padma Shri awardee Kanwal Singh Chauhan, said the government may amend some provisions of the laws but should not repeal them.