More farmers arrive from Haryana, Punjab; bandh likely to hit supply of rations for protesters
More farmers from Punjab and Haryana trickled in at the Singhu border on tractor-trolleys and cars on Tuesday amid heavy security presence as a nationwide protest called their representatives against the Centre’s agri laws was underway.
The ‘Bharat Bandh’, however, hit the supply of essentials, including rice, wheat flour, lentils, oil, milk, soap and toothpaste, for the protesters camping at the border for the 13th day on the trot.
“Obviously, the rations supply will be hit. But we have enough stacked up for another 2-3 months. We have come prepared for a long haul,” Gurjaint Singh from Panipat said.
But the numbers have started to swell as many more are coming in on bicycles and carts, he said.
At lunch time, the protesters sat in rows for a langar organised by several non-profit organisations.
After relishing lip-smacking meals, some went back to rest on their trolleys, while others listened intently to their leaders speaking from podiums.
Punjabi and Haryanvi songs blared from speakers fitted on tractors as youngsters in jeeps and cars filled service lanes in the area.
Many one-stop kiosks along the road have been doling out items of daily need, including inner wear, hair oil, skin cream, socks and soaps, for free to the protesters.
Their numbers has been increasing every day, Rajinder Singh Kohli from Mohali said.
Fewer vehicles plied on roads amid the bandh called by protesting farmer unions. App-based cabs, auto-rickshaws and DTC buses, however, could been seen on the roads. Most of the shops on the roads leading to the Singhu border remained shut. Agitating farmer unions have threatened to block national highways and occupy toll plazas across the country during their ‘chakka jam’ protest from 11 am to 3 pm as part of their stir. Emergency services will be exempted during the bandh.
In its wake, the Delhi Police beefed up security at all border points and made arrangements to maintain law and order across the city, including market places.
The bandh has been called against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020, all of which were passed by Parliament recently.
The three farm laws enacted in September have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The Centre has repeatedly asserted that these mechanisms will remain.