By Gyan Pathak
Bharat Bandh observed on March 26 clearly indicated widening spread of the farmers’ agitation in the areas and states which have hitherto been almost free from its influence. Their support base has also shown an increase, which not only included more organizations but also more people, individually and in group, especially those who have been restive for quite some over the autocratic ways of the Modi government. The kind of support it has received from the non-BJP, non-NDA political parties indicates the future of Indian polity which could not remain the same from now onwards.
Protesting farmers’ unions under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) have given the call for this Bharat Bandh to mark the completion of fourth-months of their agitation which began on November 26 on the Delhi borders. They have reiterated their demand with a renewed vigour to repeal the three farm laws which they fear would jeopardize their future, while the Modi government insists would brighten their future.
It should be noted that the three laws in question try to bring corporate to the farms for the first time in India. Sugar industry have already been brought to the farms, and sugarcane growers know how they are at their mercy for payment in time and how their demand for better rates for their produce are ignored. Non-payment to sugarcane farmers for years has been normalized. The present farmers’ agitation has thus a serious point supported by their prior bad experience.
The nationwide blockade has also signaled that greater unity is emerging among farmers across the nation. It may be recalled that after the Lal Qila incident on the Republic Day, January 26, 2021, a few farmers’ organizations have dissociated themselves from the agitation. Farmers unity was somewhat split up, though marginal. BKU president Rakesh Tikait has alleged that the Centre tried to divide us on the lines of caste and religion, but they were unsuccessful.
The spread of the farmers agitation has been noticed across the country with an intensity ranging from simple protests to combating one, minor blockades to complete stopping of all sorts of wheels on the road and rail, and negligible influence on the market to complete closures. Only five poll-bound states – Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry – remained exception where Bandh was not observed by the agitating farmers. Supply of agricultural goods, such as milk and vegetables are also affected in many parts of the country.
The agitation affected Punjab and Haryana the most, since the farmers of these two states have been agitating against the farm laws right from the beginning. These two states have traditionally been considered to be the ‘bowl of grain’ for the country, and have been contributing largest quantity in national food grain stock enabling the country to achieve food security at the national level. Therefore, a prolonged farmers’ agitation in even these two states must not be ignored. Spread of their agitation to other states is a matter of concern.
In and around Delhi, on the border of which, the farmers have been agitating for four month, train and road traffic. Four shatabdi trains were cancelled and more than 32 trains were stopped near railway stations in Delhi, Chandigarh, Firozpur, and Amritsar. The traffic on NH-9 near the Ghazipur border, one of the epicenters of the protest, was affected. Traffic around the other two protest sites – Singhu and Tikri borders – were also affected. Police have set up barricades there. Ghazipur border has become important because of incoming protestors of Western Uttar Pradesh, where agitation has gained ground. Market associations in Delhi has given moral support to the agitating farmers. Delhi police had made special arrangement in view of the nationwide blockade call.
Educational institutions in Odisha in eastern India remained closed by the state government order due to considerable spread of the support to farmers’ agitation. Among the southern states Andhra Pradesh was most affected. The ruling YSR Congress had extended its support to the Bandh call. It also affected certain areas of Maharashtra.
Farmers’ agitation has been supported by working class. The ten Central Trade Unions and the SKM are supporting each other in their struggles demanding roll back of four labour codes and three farm laws respectively. Bank employees unions, General Insurance employees unions, Life Insurance employees union, some other trade unions, student unions, bar associations, traders association, teachers association, railways unions etc supporting the agitation shows their widening support base.
Many agitating farmers, especially in the BJP ruled states, such as in Uttar Pradesh, were arrested, subjected to police action. Many cases have also been registered against agitating farmers leaders, across the country. However, encouraged by the developments of the day in spread of the agitation and support base, SKM has reiterated that they intend to continue their agitation for a long time. They are even in a mood for a combative struggle against the three farm laws until they are repealed.
In the meantime they would also launch a new phase of the movement and go for non-cooperation with the BJP led government. In the poll bound five states, farmers’ leaders are already campaigning against the Modi government’s anti-farmer anti-worker policies and asking the voters not to vote for the BJP. The actual impact on the national politics depends on many other factors but a situation seems to have come in which political parties of all hues and their leaders are most likely be compelled to talk more about farmers and workers for their success during future elections in the country. (IPA Service)