Farmers’ organisations in Karnataka are observing a dawn-to-dusk shutdown across the state on Monday to protest against the amendments to the agricultural produce market committee and land reforms passed by the Assembly last week. Labour organisations, pro-Kannada outfits and political parties like the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have extended their support to the bandh call.
In Bengaluru, a protest march has been planned from Town Hall to Mysore Bank Circle against the “anti-farmer” legislations. Taxis, auto rickshaws and private buses are likely to stay away from the road as drivers too have pledged solidarity with the protests.
The police detained Congress, JD(S) and Socialist Democratic Party of India workers, who were protesting in Madikeri of Kodagu district as protests intensified, ANI reported.
Karnataka Congress leader Siddaramaiah and Congress state chief DK Shivakumar also met the farmers to support their protest.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Monday told reporters that farmers’ outfits were not willing to discuss the amendments with him. “They have already decided to protest,” he said. “Being a farmer’s son, I am on the farmers’ side. These amendments have been brought after long discussions.”
He added that with the new amendments farmers can sell their agricultural produce anywhere in India. “We haven’t closed doors of APMC, you can sell it at APMC or wherever you can get a fair price. I request farmers, wait for another six months or a year. You’ll get to know how it’ll help you.”
On Sunday, Yediyurappa had claimed that his government was pro-farmers. “I had called leaders of farmers’ organisations and discussed with them the stand of our government and the desire of the Prime Minister (which) is pro-farmer,” he had told reporters.
The state government said all steps would be taken to ensure that there was no disruption to the normal functioning of its offices, hospitals, shops and establishments during the shutdown. State-owned public transport, bus and metro services are expected to operate normally.
The police said measures have been put in place to ensure no untoward incident occurs. “We have not given permission for any protests to anyone and senior officials have been deployed to supervise things,” City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant told Hindustan Times. “We will not allow anyone to forcefully shut down or halt activities.”
In Shivamogga, Janata Dal (Secular) workers took out a bike rally.
The state Assembly on Saturday passed the Karnataka Land Reforms (Second Amendment) Bill and the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Bill. The amendments to land reform act liberalises farmland ownership while APMC amendment bill curtails the powers of local marketing committees. It allows private individuals to start agricultural trading, if they hold a permanent account number. Congress and the JD(S) had opposed the amendment bills in the Assembly.
On Monday, All India Congress Committee General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala asked Yediyurappa to “withdraw the law and apologise”.
The farmer protest in Karnataka also coincides with the nationwide agitation going on against the three contentious agricultural laws passed by the Centre. President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday evening gave his assent to the three farm bills that were passed amid scenes of pandemonium last week.
Critics say that these new agricultural policies will lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. On Saturday, the Congress ran a social media campaign “Speak Up for Farmers”, where the party leaders criticised the Narendra Modi government and posted videos showing their support for the farmers.