‘Bharat bandh’ ends peacefully, life hit in some states as farmers take centrestage

NEW DELHI/CHANDIGARH, 8 Dec: Farmers took the national centrestage on Tuesday as their call for a ‘Bharat bandh’ to push for a repeal of the new agri laws disrupted life in myriad ways with shops closed, transport affected and protesters squatting on roads and train tracks in several places, though many states remained largely unaffected.

As the day wound to a mostly peaceful close, union Home Minister Amit Shah stepped in to call farmer leaders for talks, ahead of the sixth round of talks between central ministers and farmer representatives on Wednesday.

“We will demand just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ from Home Minister Amit Shah,” farmer leader Rudru Singh Mansa told reporters at the Singhu border, where thousands of farmers have been protesting for the last 12 days.

As analysts, politicians and others assessed how effective the bandh had been, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav claimed it was observed in around 10,000 places in 25 states.

Emergency services were exempted and banks, too, continued operations as the pan-India shutdown, backed by most opposition parties and trade unions, rolled out noisily but peacefully with its impact felt in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, the epicentre of the snowballing protests, as well as in states such as Odisha, Maharashtra and Bihar.

In several parts of the country, including in BJP-ruled Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Arunachal, life continued unimpeded.

The protesting farmers fear the new laws will pave the way for eliminating the safety of the minimum support price cushion and do away with ‘mandis’, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The government maintains the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.

The three contentious laws at the centre of the protests are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. (PTI)