Farmers blocked major highways and squatted on railway tracks in many states, including Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, during the Bharat bandh called by farmers’ bodies on Monday to protest against the new agri laws. The nationwide strike began at 6 am and ended at 4 pm.
Commercial establishments remained shut and the movement of public transport was affected in many places as major highways and railway tracks were blocked by the protesters.
The effect of the bandh was felt the most around Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, the centre of the farm protests, and also in large pockets of Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
The movement of 25 trains was affected due to the bandh, officials told news agency PTI, adding, “More than 20 locations were blocked in Delhi, Ambala, and Firozepur divisions. Officials said the Delhi-Amritsar Shan-e-Punjab, New Delhi-Moga Express, Old Delhi-Pathankot Express, Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi to Katra, and Amritsar Shatabdi were some of the trains affected.
In the North-Western Railway zone, rail traffic on the Rewari-Bhiwani, Bhiwani-Rohtak, Bhiwani-Hisar and Hanumangarh-Sadulpur-Sriganganagar-Fatuhi sections was hit due to the farmers’ agitation.
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said the bandh was a massive success. “Our Bharat bandh was successful. We had the full support of farmers…We can’t seal down everything as we have to facilitate the movement of people. We are ready for discussions with the government but no talks are happening,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha said that there was an unprecedented response to bandh call given by farmers.
Meanwhile, as farmers across the country held protests, the Congress on Monday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to talk to agitating farmers and listen to their legitimate grievances.
The Congress also alleged that instead of redressing the grievances of farmers, the government is trying to paint them as enemies of the country and that is why the farmers are protesting on the roads.
Expressing support for protesting farmers, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the farmers’ non-violent ‘satyagraha’ is still resolute.
Posting rhyming lines in Hindi on Twitter, Gandhi said, “Kisano ka ahimsak satyagraha aaj bhi akhand hai, lekin shoshankar sarkar ko ye nahi pasand hai, isliye aaj Bharat Bandh hai (Farmers’ non-violent satyagraha is resolute even today, but the exploitative government does not like this and that’s why it is Bharat Bandh today).”
“We have to stand unitedly with the farmers, otherwise the future of our nation is dark,” Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told reporters.
In Delhi, a section of the trade unions and civil society groups held a protest at Jantar Mantar. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of over 40 farm unions spearheading the agitation against the tree contentious laws, had appealed to people on Thursday to join the bandh.
Holding banners that read “Long Live Farmers Unity”, demanding a repeal of the three farm laws and equal opportunities for all, the protesters held a march at Jantar Mantar. Organisations including the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the All India Kisan Sabha, the Janwadi Mahila Samiti and the United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) participated in the protest and also raised their voices against issues apart from those related to farmers.
Parts of the national capital witnessed traffic snarls in morning hours as police closed some key roads to prevent any untoward incident during the bandh. Commuters faced difficulty while crossing the city borders, especially the Delhi-Gurgaon border. The traffic on DND was also affected. The Ghazipur border is closed for vehicular movement and the whole traffic is being diverted to DND and Apsara border for Noida and Ghaziabad respectively.
There was chaos on one carriageway of the national highway coming from Ghazipur border to Sarai Kale Khan near Akshardham Mandir.
However, markets remained open and business activities were largely unaffected in the national capital, despite the traffic snarls due to road blockades by protesters and security checks by police.
The auto and taxi unions as well as several traders’ bodies extended only “in-principle support” to the Bharat Bandh and decided not to join the strike, saying their livelihood has already been hit hard due to the pandemic and lockdown.