A nationwide strike on Tuesday called by agitating farmer unions to press for repeal of the Centre's agricultural laws is likely to have an impact in parts of north India and some non-BJP ruled states elsewhere, even as the farmer leaders said that no one should be forced to join the shutdown.
With protesting farmers heading for Bharat Bandh on December 8, support has come for their movement from all quarters -- from political parties, trade bodies, artists, sportspersons to students.
With almost all opposition parties and several trade unions backing the 'Bharat Bandh' and many announcing parallel protests in support of the farmers, the Centre has issued an advisory directing all the states and Union Territories to tighten security and ensure Covid guidelines are followed.
Announcing their plans for the Bharat Bandh on Tuesday, farmers' leaders said that they will occupy toll plazas at the borders of Delhi between 11 am to 3 pm. The leaders also claimed the bandh will be effective across the country.
While assuring that emergency services will be allowed during Bharat Bandh, the leaders have appealed farmers to maintain peace and not to enter into any scuffle to enforce the bandh.
Meanwhile, the BJP accused its rivals of "shameful double standards" as it claimed that parties like the Congress and the NCP had once supported what are now key provisions of the new laws.
HERE IS ALL THAT HAPPENED ON DAY 12 OF THE FARMERS' PROTEST:
1. In the backdrop of the protest against farm laws, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that reforms are needed for development, and said some laws of the past century have become a "burden" in the current times.
2. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the Singhu border, where thousands of farmers are protesting against the Centre's new farm laws, and checked arrangements made for them by the city government.
"We are working like 'sewadaar'. Here I have not come as a chief minister but as a 'sewadaar' to serve the farmers. It is our responsibility to support the farmers," he said.
3. In Lucknow, UP Police took Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav into custody after SP leaders led by him broke through the security cordon to sit on a dharna in the heart of the city to oppose the three farm bills.
4. Led by two-time Asian Games gold-winning former wrestler Kartar Singh, a few sportspersons from Punjab on Monday marched towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan to return "35 national sports awards" in a show of solidarity with farmers agitating against new agriculture laws but were stopped midway by the police.
5. The BJP lashed out at the opposition parties for coming out against the Centre's farm reforms enacted as it cited their earlier support to many provisions of the new laws to accuse them of "shameful double standards".
Senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that a section of farmers has fallen in the grip of a few people with "vested interests" and asserted that the government was working to address their misgivings about the reforms, which have drawn strong protests from a section of cultivators.
6. The Centre asked all states and Union Territories to tighten security during Tuesday's 'Bharat Bandh' while asserting that peace and tranquillity must be maintained on that day. In a countrywide advisory, the Union Home Ministry also said 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 railways too asked its personnel to step up vigil saying protesters may organise rail blockades in 16 states.
7. Appealing to everyone to join the "symbolic" bandh, farmer leaders said they will block key roads during their 'chakka jam' protest from 11 AM to 3 PM as part of their stir, which has drawn people from northern states especially Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi since the last 12 days.
"Our bandh is different from that of political parties. It is a four-hour symbolic bandh for an ideological cause. We want that there should be no problem for the common people. We appeal to them not to travel during this period," farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said.
"We also urge shopkeepers to shut their outlets during this period," he said.
8. Transport facilities and supplies of essentials like vegetables and fruits are likely to be affected in Delhi on Tuesday as various unions and associations of cab drivers and mandi traders have decided to join the 'Bharat Bandh' strike called by farmers’ unions.
Apart from this, national transport of goods could also be affected as transporter bodies and Railways unions have pledged support to the Bandh.
Markets in Delhi, however, will remain open. Bank unions, too, will not be participating in the Bharat Bandh.
The Delhi Police said elaborate security arrangements have been made in view of the 'Bharat Bandh' and warned that strict action will be taken against those trying to disrupt the movement of people or "forcefully" shut shops.
9. Several of opposition parties have announced protest programmes for Tuesday while supporting the Bandh call by the farmer groups, who have maintained that their stir is apolitical.
The Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Trinamool Congress, DMK and its allies, TRS, RJD, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party and the Left are among the political parties that are backing the strike.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati too tweeted on Monday in support of the bandh and appealed to the Centre to accept the farmers' demands.
10. The RSS-backed Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) said it won't support Tuesday's 'Bharat Bandh' against the Centre's new farm laws but would like the legislation to go through some "improvements".
"We are not supporting the 'Bharat bandh' but we don't endorse the three laws in toto (completely)," a BKS leader said.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi against the new farm laws for the last 12 days.
The bandh has been called against Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020, all of which were passed by Parliament recently.
The three farm laws enacted in September have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The Centre has repeatedly asserted that these mechanisms will remain.
The Centre and the farmer unions are slated to hold the sixth round of talks a day after the bandh as previous discussions failed to end the deadlock.