Chandigarh, Sep 25 (IANS) Cutting across party lines, barring the BJP, the day-long protests by farmers evoked an enormous response in the agrarian states of Punjab and Haryana as normal life remained disrupted with closure of rail and road networks. However, in Chandigarh the situation was almost normal.
Rail traffic across Punjab was badly hit as farmers, farm labourers, commission agents and activists of political parties squatted on railway lines.
There was no report of any untoward incident from anywhere in the states, barring some minor skirmishes.
The activists of several farmers’ associations were seen asking traders at several places in the Congress-ruled Punjab to keep their shops and business establishments closed to mark the pan-India protest.
The protesters alleged that the Central government is opening up the farm sector to the corporate houses and pushing the small and marginal farmers on the brink of extinction.
Reports of shutdown of shops and other establishments were received from Patiala, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Moga, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and other places in Punjab. The situation was similar in Haryana.
Sufficient security arrangements were made in both the states to prevent any untoward incident, said a senior police officer here.
In a first-of-its-kind show of solidarity, 31 farmers’ organisations in Punjab announced a joint protest.
Several trains have been suspended since Thursday as farmers began a three-day ‘rail roko’ campaign against the Bills, which has now been extended till September 29.
The Ferozepur Railway division decided to suspend operation of special trains till September 26 in view of the safety of passengers, a railway official told IANS.
Protests are being held at 125 places in Punjab, said the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee. All main highways were blocked by the farmers.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to all the political parties to rise above “petty considerations” and come on one platform to fight unitedly against the “treacherous” Bills that would destroy the state’s farmers.
“Farmers are the backbone of our society and the recent farmer Bills passed by the Union Government are a step in the wrong direction. It’s time we all stand for what’s right. Together let’s impress upon the Centre to pull back these anti-farmer Bills,” Amarinder Singh said in a tweet.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), an ally of the BJP-led NDA government, announced a statewide ‘chakka jam’ to mark their protest.
SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal has asked the Punjab Chief Minister to immediately declare the entire state of Punjab as a ‘principal market yard’ for agricultural produce so that the Center’s Bills on agricultural marketing do not apply in the state.
Sukhbir Badal drove a tractor with his wife and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal by his side and led a tractor march from his residence in Badal village to Lambi where the party had organised a protest against the Bills.
He announced that SAD would hold a Punjab Kisan March on October 1 from Takht Damdama Sahib, Akal Takht Sahib and Anandpur Sahib to Chandigarh against the farm Bills.
Speaking at the protest meeting, Sukhbir Badal said the government should also hold a special session of the state assembly to ratify the Ordinance to declare the state a aprincipal market yard.
“I have moved this proposal two days back. The government should move quickly on this to save the future of our coming generations,” he told the media.
The SAD has been a longstanding ally of the ruling BJP. SAD’s Lok Sabha MP and Sukhbir Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal had resigned from the Union Cabinet on September 17, citing her party’s opposition to the three Bills.
Interestingly, many Punjabi singers have extended their support and joined the abandh’ call given by farmers.
Popular Punjabi singer and actor Harbhajan Mann in a tweet said he along with several other artists would be participating in the protest.
In Haryana, activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union blocked the Chandigarh- Delhi National Highway at several places.
Congress Chief Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala described the legislations “black laws”.
“The Modi government through three black laws has launched a brutal attack on farmers, farm labourers and their livelihoods,” Surjewala told reporters.
Terming the Farm Bills as a ‘revolutionary step’, Haryana BJP state chief O.P. Dhankar said these would open up multiple options for farmers to sell their produce.