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    Published On : Tue, Dec 8th, 2020

    Bharat Bandh today; Centre issues advisory

    A nationwide strike today called by agitating farmer unions to press for repeal of the Centre’s agri 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 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.

    The railways too asked its personnel to step up vigil saying protesters may organise rail blockades in 16 states.

    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 to 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.

    Bhartiya Kisan Ekta Sangathan president Jagjit Singh Dallewala asked farmers to maintain peace and not to try enforce the shutdown. He said emergency services will be exempted during the bandh.

    The leader also claimed the bandh will be effective across the country.

    “The Modi government will have to accept our demands. We want nothing less than a withdrawal of the new farm laws,” farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said.

    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.

    Targeted by the opposition parties, the BJP hit back and accused them of “shameful double standards”, claiming many of them had endorsed these reforms when in power or had supported them in Parliament.

    Senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the opposition parties have joined the agitation in a bid to save their existence after being repeatedly rejected by people in different elections across the country.

    Prasad said a section of farmers has fallen in the grip of some people with “vested interests” and asserted that the government was working to address their misgivings about the reforms.

    He appreciated the protesting farmer unions for not associating their stir with any political parties.

    Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis also slammed the opposition.

    The agitating farmers have drawn support from various quarters including artists, sportspersons and workers’ and students’ groups.

    Tuesday’s strike could impact the transport of goods as the All India Motor Transport Congress, the apex body of transporters representing about 95 lakh truckers and other entities, said it will suspend operations in the entire country to support the bandh.

    The Railways’ two biggest unions, AIRF and NFIR have extended their support to the bandh and are planning to hold rallies and demonstrations in their support.

    The All India Railwaymen’s Federation has around nine lakh members.

    They are the latest to show solidarity with the agitating farmers, who have found support from transport unions and the joint forum of trade unions like the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

    Traders’ body CAIT and the All India Transporters Welfare Association, however, said markets across the country including in Delhi will remain open and transport services will also remain operative.

    While the Confederation of All India Traders claims to represent around seven crore traders, AITWA said it represents 60 to 65 percent of the organised transport sector in the country.

    Bank unions also said they will not participate in the Bharat Bandh on Tuesday, even as they expressed solidarity with farmers protesting against the new farm laws.

    All India Bank Officers’ Confederation General Secretary Soumya Datta said the union has expressed its solidarity with farmers but will not be participating in the Bharat Bandh called by them.

    Similarly, All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said union members would wear black badges while on duty, stage protest after or before working hours and display placards before bank branches to support the cause of farmers of the country, but banking operations will not be hit.

    The Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Trinamool Congress, the DMK and its allies, the TRS, the RJD, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Left are among the political parties that are backing the strike.

    Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati too tweeted on Monday in support of the bandh and appealed to the Centre to accept the farmers’ demands.

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