Ahead of Bharat Bandh, states told to bolster security
The ministry of home affairs (MHA) has asked all states and Union territories to enforce Covid-19 health and safety protocols strictly and make adequate security arrangements during the nationwide shutdown strike called by farmers’ groups on Tuesday, demanding the repeal of three laws that seek to liberalize agricultural markets.
All opposition parties except the Biju Janata Dal and YSR Congress Party, the ruling parties in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, and major labour and workers’ unions have supported the Bharat Bandh, which is likely to have an impact in Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, western Uttar Pradesh, and parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana.
In an advisory, the home ministry also asked state governments and the police to ensure that all Covid-19 guidelines are strictly adhered to by the protestors, officials familiar with the matter said. “Peace and tranquility should be maintained during Bharat Bandh and security arrangements should be in place to avoid any untoward incident,” said the advisory, a copy of which was reviewed by HT.
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After the MHA sent out its advisory, the governments of states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh instructed district administrators to take “stern action” against those engaging in violence or violating Covid-19 guidelines.
The impact of the bandh, which will start in the morning and will continue until 3 p.m., is expected to be felt particularly in Punjab, where all political parties, trade bodies, truck unions and mandi associations have extended farmers their support. The Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC), the highest religious body of Sikhs, said on Monday that the strike will be complete.
In Haryana, five legislators of deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party have extended support to the protest. All major markets in the state are expected to remain closed with farmers’ bodies planning blockades.
In Uttar Pradesh, opposition party leaders Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party asked their workers to participate in the bandh. The police expect the bandh to have impact in western UP, where Bharatiya Kisan Union has considerable influence.
“The opposition parties are trying to mislead innocent farmers on the Centre’s revolutionary and historic laws to further their selfish political ends,” UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath said.
In Rajasthan, various farmers groups have announced plans to block all highways in the state until 3 p.m. even as chief minister Ashok Gehlot appealed to protestors to maintain peace.
In Maharashtra, the ruling Shiv Sena, along with its alliance partners, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, has supported the bandh. In Madhya Pradesh, over 50 farmers groups have decided to block traffic on various highways on Tuesday. Gujarat has invoked prohibitory orders across the state to prevent major protests, officials said.
There would be no strike in Kerala, where local body polls are to be held on Tuesday, even though the state government on Monday decided to approach the Supreme Court against the three farm laws. In Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M K Stalin will lead the protests .
In West Bengal and Jharkhand, the bandh is expected to have impact as all main parties and trade unions have called for a complete strike. “Our government does not support strikes, but the TMC fully supports farmers’ struggle,” said Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab have massed on Delhi’s borders to protest against the Centre’s new agricultural laws.
“The response is overwhelming, not only in Punjab or the neighbouring states; it would be a total bandh in the entire country,” said BS Rajewal, president of a faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.