BHARAT Bandh called by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of over 40 farm unions spearheading the farmers' agitation, to mark the first anniversary of the enactment of the three controversial farm laws on September 27 generated good response across the country. The bandh was held from 6 am to 4 pm during which all government and private offices, educational and other institutions, shops, industries and commercial establishments as well as public events and functions were closed in many parts of the country. The opposition political parties and the governments of Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Punjab, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh extended their support to the bandh, and the protest evoked response in these states. The Bandh also garnered support from more than 500 farmer organizations, 15 trade unions, and varied sections of society.
Farmers held rallies and the major mandis and markets remained shut. The protesting farmers were seen squatting on railway tracks at many places.
The farmers' protest began last year on November 26 against the three farm laws: Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. While the centre has defended the laws as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country, the farmers contend that the legislations would eliminate the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the "mandi" system. They also fear that the laws would bring on the scene the corporates who would monopolize the trade and feel empowered to determine the market prices.
The farmers leader Rakesh Tikait termed the bandh successful, saying it had the support of all farmers. He added that the farmers were ready for talks with the central government, but no talks were happening right now.
But the government, on the other hand, is showing no signs of backing down. Early this year, the central government had offered to suspend the farmer laws for one and a half years. Farmers, however, rejected this offer. They want nothing short of the repeal of the laws. It remains to be seen how the government responds to the bandh and mounting protests. It would be great if the government shelves the laws and then engages farmers in a discussion about them to mobilize support for their re-enactment in future.
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