Rail and road transportation services were affected and markets remained closed in parts of the country on Friday in view of the Bharat Bandh, or countrywide shutdown, called by farmer unions protesting against the three agriculture laws, reported PTI.
The bandh marks four months of the farmers’ agitation at Delhi’s three borders – Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri.
The 12-hour agitation will be in force till 6 pm, according to Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of the protesting unions. However, no shutdown will be observed in the four poll-bound states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
Protestors blocked the Ghazipur border between New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh and GT Road and railway track near Shahpur in Haryana on Friday morning. Vehicular movement was disrupted in parts of Punjab and Haryana, reported The Hindu. Public transport, including taxis and buses, also stayed off the roads.
Senior farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said that trade unions from organised and unorganised sectors, transport and other associations have also extended their support for the bandh. “Farmers will block rail tracks in various places,” Rajewal told PTI. “Markets and transport services will be closed during Bharat bandh.”
Confederation of All India Traders opposed Rajewal’s claims and said that markets will remain open on Friday. “We are not going to participate in Bharat bandh tomorrow. Markets will remain open in Delhi and other parts of the country,” said Praveen Khandelwal, national general secretary of the trade body. “The ongoing deadlock can be resolved only through dialogue process. There should be discussions on amendments in the farm laws that can make existing farming profitable.”
Here’s how farmers observed the shutdown in various states:
No disturbances or disruption of transport and other services were reported in the Capital, according to PTI. A senior Delhi Police officer said the situation was peaceful and remained under control, adding that no untoward incident was reported.
The situation was normal at the New Delhi railway station. Markets at Connaught Place, Karol Bagh, Kashmiri Gate, Chandni Chowk and Sadar remained open. Shops in Khan Market in Central Delhi were also open.
Farmers camping at the Ghazipur border blocked a carriageway of National Highway 9 from Delhi to Ghaziabad on Friday morning, but the protests fizzled out in most parts of the city by afternoon, the officer said.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had to briefly close the entry and exit gates of the Tikri Border, Bahadurgarh City and Brigadier Hoshiar Singh stations, but after a few minutes, the stations were opened for passengers.
Earlier in the day, the Delhi Police had asked commuters to avoid the Ghazipur Border as it had been blocked.
Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh
The impact of the bandh was more deeply felt in Punjab and Haryana, as farmers blocked national highways and other key roads, and squatted on railway tracks in several locations leading to disruption in traffic.
Shops remained closed at several places in Punjab and public transport remained off the roads. Shops were closed in a few places in Haryana too. State Transport Minister Moolchand Sharma told PTI that Haryana Roadways bus services will be suspended in some districts only. “Bus services are otherwise functional in Haryana,” he said.
Farmers also blocked the Delhi-Hisar national highway near Meham of Haryana’s Rohtak district, according to The Indian Express. The departure of the Shatabdi Express was halted at the Chandigarh railway station after farmers sat on the rail route that connects Chandigarh and Ambala.
Emergency services such as ambulance and fire, however, were allowed to operate during the shutdown.
The agitating farmers blocked several key roads, including Chandigarh-Delhi, Amritsar-Delhi, Hisar-Delhi and Bhiwani-Delhi national highways. They parked their tractors and other vehicles in the middle of the carriageways.
They also blocked the Ambala-Rajpura Highway on the Haryana-Punjab border near Shambhu barrier, and the Ambala-Hisar Highway near Ambala City, according to PTI. Demonstrations were also held at toll plazas.
Odisha announces closing educational institutes
The Odisha government on Thursday declared the closure of all educational institutions across the state in view of the shutdown call given by farmers unions. The Congress and Left parties have announced their support to the 12-hour bandh.
The state government has also asked its employees to reach office by 9.30 am. Odisha’s home department said the front gates of state secretariat Lok Seva Bhawan will be closed at 10.15 am and all entry will be regulated through rear gates.
The Utkal University postponed the fifth semester exams of Arts, Science and Commerce streams, that were scheduled to be held on Friday.
Bhubaneswar city “Mo Bus” services were hampered as protestors blocked some roads, according to PTI. Train services were also affected in some areas such as in Balasore.
Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. Farmers fear the policies will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime.
The farmers have hunkered down with supplies that they say will last them for months, and have resolved to not leave until their demands are met. Several rounds of talks between the government and farm leaders took place, but none of them could manage to end the deadlock. In January, the Supreme Court had suspended the implementation of the laws until further orders.
The movement poses one of the biggest challenges to Modi since he took power in 2014, as he faces criticism from all sides, including from some allies of the BJP. The Shiromani Akali Dal of Punjab quit the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre in September itself.
Another sign of impact was the Congress’ spectacular performance in the urban body polls held in Punjab last month.