Bharat Bandh invokes mixed response in UP, SP workers protest
The Bharat Bandh called by farmer unions, protesting the three Central agri laws, drew a mixed response in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday with shops and offices remaining largely open, while the Samajwadi Party held protests in a number of districts and even holding up a train in Allahabad.
Samajwadi Party leaders sat on a silent protest near the statue of former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh at the Vidhan Bhavan in Lucknow in support of the bandh. SP MLCs Rajpal Kashyap, Sunil Singh Sajan, Anand Bhadauria and Ashu Malik were part of it.
However, life in state capital remained mostly unaffected with District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash saying that attendances in offices were absolutely normal.
“The impact (of the Bharat Bandh) was zero in Lucknow as all the markets were open. The mandis were also open,” he said.
Ashish Tripathi, a lawyer, said it was a normal day for him and his colleagues, and it took them almost the same time their office as on any other day.
“Banking activity in the state was also by and large normal and there was no impact of Bharat Bandh,” Dilip Chauhan, the UP General Secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation told PTI on Tuesday.
Regional Manager of UPSRTC PK Bose said, “Passenger flow was less on Tuesday as compared to other days. However, operation-wise it was a normal day for us.”
Samajwadi Party workers came out on the streets of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, raising slogans in support of the ‘Bharat Bandh’, leading to clashes with police at many places. They stopped the Bundelkhand Express at Prayagraj station, and raised slogans while sitting on the railway track.
Allahabad Superintendent of Police (city) Dinesh Kumar Singh said, “Those who tried to hold up the Bundelkhand Express were taken into custody and the train later departed. Our teams are patrolling railway and bus stations and important places. So far, there has been no blockade of traffic and all markets are open.” Abhilash Basak, who runs a tour and travel agency in Allahabad, said, “Almost all the shops in the Civil Lines area are open and it is a normal day for us. Heavy police force has been deployed in the area.”
Around 14 Samajwadi Party leaders in Banda were put under house arrest, while in Chitrakoot district, some SP workers who tried to stage a protest were arrested, police said. Some SP leaders in Mahoba were under house arrest from Monday itself.
The call for bandh did not evoke any response in Amethi and Kaushambi as shops were open and business activities were normal. Shops remained open in Hamirpur, Jalaun and Lalitpur as well. In Bundelkhand the response to the call for bandh was partial and in Mau shops remained closed.
In Mainpuri, lawyers abstained from work and the business at the wholesale grain market was affected, while for other establishments in the district it was a normal day.
In Aligarh, hundreds of farmers squatted on a road leading to the Yamuna Expressway and blocked traffic for several hours. Samajwadi Party leader and former Lok Sabha MP from Aligarh Brijendra Singh and a group of party workers were arrested when they squatted a the crossing on the Exhibition Road in solidarity with the protesting farmers, police said.
Despite some protests by SP and Congress workers in Gorakhpur, shops were open and traffic was as usual, while there was normal attendance in private and government offices. Police said that some political leaders and workers were detained for maintaining law and order.
City Magistrate Abhinav Ranjan Srivastav said, “All markets were open and police and administrative officials were vigilant. Some people who violated section 144 of CrPC (which prevents assembly of five or more people at one spot), were detained to maintain law and order.” SP leader and former minister Arvind Singh Gope told PTI that he has been put under house arrest in Barabanki. Senior Congress leader Pradeep Mathur also claimed that he has been arrested along with many party workers in Mathura.
There were also reports of Congress leaders and workers being put under house arrest or getting arrested in Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, Ghazipur, Chitrakoot, Saharanpur and Kanpur. A senior state government official, however, asserted that the situation was peaceful in the state.
Rashtriya Kisan Manch president Shekhar Dixit alleged that instead of resolving problems faced by the farmers, attempts were being made to blame them.
“This will prove costly,” he warned.
Dixit alleged that the minimum support price (MSP) announced by the government never reached the farmers of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
“The government has to revamp its style of working, otherwise the issue of doubling the income of the farmers will only remain a day dream,” he said.
Agitating farmer unions have given a call for a nationwide strike on Tuesday to press for the repeal of the Centre’s agri laws with almost all opposition parties and several trade unions backing the it and many announcing parallel protests in support of the farmers.
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.