Tribune News Service
Moga/Bathinda/Chandigarh, September 25
Punjab farmers on Friday took to the streets and held protests at 125 sites against the three farm Bills cleared by Parliament, which they dubbed as “black laws”.
They blocked roads, including highways, to press the Centre for the withdrawal of the legislations, which are yet to get the President’s approval.
With the farmers squatting on rail tracks, the supply of essential commodities was hit. Shops, commercial establishments and vegetable markets remained shut at several places.
At least 31 farm organisations from Punjab, including the Bharti Kisan Union Krantikari, Kirti Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee and BKU (Lakhowal), participated in the nationwide bandh.
The Malwa belt comprising Bathinda, Patiala, Ludhiana, Moga, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Barnala, Faridkot, Muktsar and Mansa areas saw thousands of farmers taking part in the dharnas. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress held parallel protests at various places.
The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee announced that the ‘rail roko’ stir against the farm Bills had been extended till September 29.
In Muktsar, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal led a tractor march from his Badal village residence. While he drove the tractor, wife and former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal sat beside him.She had resigned in protest against the farm Bills.
Several organisations in Haryana, including the BKU, have also extended support to the nationwide strike called by some farmers' bodies against the bills.
Police personnel in adequate strength were deployed across the state to maintain law and order, officials said.
The supply of essential commodities was hit badly across these areas. The fruit and vegetable markets remained closed in all the cities and towns of the Malwa belt. The other markets have also not opened since the morning. The supply of milk was also partially affected in many areas.
Public transport—buses, taxis and tempos—were not plying on the roads.
However, most of the private companies, industries had opened in the Moga city as usual.
In Patiala, essential supplies, including milk and poultry supply, were hit as farmers held blockades on roads leading to the city. Hundreds of farmers held a protest and blocked the Sangrur-Patiala highway.
The Chandigarh-Bathinda highway was completely blocked by farmers.
Farmers block Bathinda-Chandigarh NH-7 in protest against ordinances
Farmers staged a protest by blocking the Bathinda-Zirakpur National Highway at Rampura Phul in Bathinda district.
A large number of youth and women were also present at the dharna.
Buta Singh Burjgill of BKU Dakonda said: "People have given us full support by completely closing their shops on their own. This is a historic movement as an earlier bandh was done with fear, but now people of Punjab are also with farmers over the issue of three farmer ordinances as it will affect all the sections of the society linked directly or indirectly with agricultural.”
He said, “We demand the union government to take back these anti-farmer bills until then this protest would continue."
Kaka Singh, state secretary BKU Sidhupur said, “Today its historic day as 31 Kisan unions have come together at one platform to protest against these anti-farmer bills. He also stated that farmers have forced all political parties to come for their support as earlier all the political parties have run away from their promises when in power”.
He said from October 1, indefinite rail rook would start and they would boycott BJP leaders and workers. After September 25, he will get resolutions passed from gram panchayats in 1250 villages in the state against these ordinances.
Farmers' Punjab bandh call got good response in Bathinda city and adjoining towns as, except few medicine shops, banks and all the major markets remained closed.
In Moga, Nestle, the multinational food and milk manufacturing company opened in the morning shift and work was normal.
"We collected milk from the villages in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as usual last night and processing was going on normal. The employee's attendance is also normal", said Kamal Bir Singh Deol, Head of the Milk Processing Unit of Nestle.
However, train services remained hit. The Ferozepur Railway division has suspended the operation of all special trains in Punjab, J&K and Himachal Pradesh till September 26 as a precautionary measure.
The farmers had already identified as many 30 sites on the railway tracks in Punjab where they had begun protests.
In Moga, farmers blocked the rail and road traffic on the national highway at Dagru village on the border of Moga and Ferozepur districts. The railway track crosses the national highway in this village.
The railway officials said that the "rail roko" (block rail tracks) agitation in Punjab over farm bills had badly affected the transportation of food grains and other essential goods. It had also affected the movement of passengers, many travelling for emergencies in the special trains.
Similarly, the transportation of goods through trucks had also been badly affected due to the farmers’ agitation. The agitation completely halted the transportation of goods. Many freight and parcel trains were rescheduled by the railway authorities in the Ferozepur division.
Meanwhile, the Amritsar-Haridwar train has been cancelled from September 25 to 26 and the New Delhi-Jammu Tawi Express from September 24 to 26. The Hazur Saheb Nanded-Amritsar train will not go to Amritsar and end its journey in Old Delhi. The Dhanbad-Ferozepur Cantonment train will not go to Ferozepur Cantonment station. The Mumbai Central-Amritsar train will also be stopped either at Ambala or Delhi during these 3 days of farmers’ agitation, the railway authorities said. In total, at least, 25 trains have been affected in the Ferozepur railway division.
The farmers had gathered at the main square of the Moga city, at Pandori village, Chuhar Chak village, on the highway outside Rode village and at least 25 locations in the Moga district.
Similarly, the dharnas were staged at Feroze Shah on the Moga-Ferozepur national highway, Golu ka Mor, Zira road bridge in Ferozepur city and many other locations—Arifke, Talwandi Bhai, Makhu, Zira and many other locations in the Ferozepur district.
Sukhdev Singh Kokri General Secretary of the BKU (Ekta) said that the central government brought the farm bills in haste without consulting the farm organizations. He termed the farm bills as "Black Bills" and said they will destroy the existing agriculture market system. The farmers will lose their lands to big corporate houses. “We will intensify our stir in the days to come till these farm Bills are rejected by the BJP government. These Bills are not acceptable to the farmers of Punjab and other parts of the country”, he added. He claimed that "farmers will turn into labourers in their own fields through these Bills".
Dr Harjot Kamal the Congress MLA of Moga said that the Union Government passed the farm Bills without the consent of state governments. The states will suffer huge economic losses due to these legislations. He said agriculture is a state subject and the Union Government came up with new Bills without the consent of States. He said the move was against the federal structure enshrined in the Constitution.
The Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, have been passed by both Houses and await presidential assent.
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