New Delhi: The list of sections of working population extending solidarity to the protesting farmers is constantly growing, raising questions on the Centre’s claim that the current agitation against the controversial farm legislations are restricted to one community from just a couple of states.
Trade bodies, sectoral federations, transport associations, students, university employees among others – from across the country have come forward on Monday, December 7, with their respective appeals to support the one day Bharat Bandh on December 8.
Called by Delhi Chalo – Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body comprising of around 500 farmers’ groups, the nationwide bandh is expected to witness road blockades at highways, closure of bazaars, along with block level demonstrations in different states. The farmers have appealed to their supporters for chakka jams at the streets till 3 PM on the protest day.
The groups, led by the Kisan Morcha, are hoping to mount pressure on the Centre, as they are scheduled to enter a sixth round of negotiations over their demands a day later on December 9. A complete shutdown as part of their Bandh programme, ahead of the talks with the Centre, will certainly showcase the strength of the farmers’ movement.
The joint platform of 10 Central Trade Unions, in theIR press statement dated December 5, reiterated their “wholehearted support” to the ongoing farmers’ protests that carries demands including scrapping of “draconian” agriculture reforms, an amendment to the electricity law and enactment of a legislation guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP) over crop produce.
“… workers and employees and their unions have been fully active in holding numerous agitations in solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ struggles, in all states throughout the country braving arrests and intimidation from many of the state administration/police,” the statement calling for the support to the December 8 bandh, said.
Also read: Explainer: ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8
“The response to it (farmers’ movement) has been massive,” Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) general secretary Tapan Sen told NewsClick. According to him, sectoral federations active within banking, insurance, along with defence employees and central and state government employees have extended their support to the agitating farmers and urged the Centre to pay heed to their demands at the earliest.
Likewise, the All India Railwaymen Federation (AIRF), the largest employees federation in the Indian Railways, has also called upon all its affiliated unions to support the pan-India strike. The telecom sector employees with the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will be holding lunch demonstrations and wear badges in support of the farmers on the occasion.
“Since there was little scope of submitting a notice and observing the strike, employees in several sectors will be mostly holding rallies and demonstrations at their work places on December 8,” Sen said. The industrial workers in the manufacturing belts throughout the nation, he added, will be “rallying and blocking highways” in support of the farmers.
These workers will be mainly joined by tea plantation workers in West Bengal, who will be holding joint demonstrations in solidarity with the farming community. Abhijit Mazumdar, working president of Darjeeling-based Terai Sangrami Cha Shramik Union told NewsClick over phone that gate meetings will be conducted in the production units in the area, which will see raising of demands relating to both tea workers and farmers.
In the national capital, transport services are expected to come to a grinding halt on December 8, since as many as 27 drivers’ unions have vowed not to ply their vehicles on road for the day. This includes private taxis, app-based cars such as those associated with Ola and Uber, trucks, tourist transporters among others.
Kamaljeet Singh, president, Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi, told NewsClick that the transporters are standing shoulder to shoulder with the protesting farmers. “We will urge as many drivers to not drive for one day in support of the farmers,” he said, adding that 4.5 lakh such cab drivers – mostly app-based – are associated with his association.
Meanwhile, motor transporters apex body, All India Motor transport Congress (AIMTC), representing about 95 lakh truckers and other entities countrywide, have also threatened to halt their operations from December 8 in case Centre doesn’t address the concerns of the farming community.
As many as 23 farmer groups have formed an umbrella body called Gujarat Khedut Sangharsh
Samiti and extended support to the bandh call. "We have extended support to Tuesday's bandh in
support of farmers. We will hold protests all over Gujarat on December 10, and a day later, we have organised a 'Kisan Sansad' at Satyagrah Chhavni in Gandhinagar. On December 12, farmers from here will march to Delhi to join the protests there," Jayesh Patel president of Gujarat Khedut Samaj was quoted as saying by PTI.
However, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh backed Bharatiya Kisan Sangh has distanced itself from the protests.
Also read: Farmers Call for Bharat Bandh, Modi and Top Leaders in a Huddle
Monday marks the 12th day of the farmers’ protest at the borders of the national capital, as part of which the protesters continue to stay put at Singhu border on the arterial GT Karnal highway that connects Delhi with Haryana, and at the Tikri border near Mundka, another Delhi-Haryana bordering village. Farmers have also amassed the Ghazipur border connecting Uttar Pradesh with the national capital.
Singh informed NewsClick that a joint delegation of transporters had yesterday, on December 6, visited Singhu border, and contributed an amount of Rs. 3 lakh to the protesting farmers’ as a token of support.
University students, who have been participating in solidarity actions with the farmers at the Delhi border protest sites in recent days, are also not behind. In a statement released on Monday by the All India Forum To Save Public Education, the students in all universities across the nation have been urged to hold protests in their respective areas or campuses in solidarity with farmers on the day of the bandh.
“India’s struggle for independence was led by marginalised workers and peasant masses and the Indian state has declared a war on its own people instead of addressing a democratic agitation of farmers,” the forum, which is a coming together of students’ unions that cut across political affiliation, said in its statement.
The umbrella body accused the Centre for encouraging “corporate loot” through the recently passed three farm legislations – a similar fate that education in the country, “commercialised” through New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, is doomed to fall into.
Further, the students are joined by university employees and educationists in ensuring that the farmers aren’t agitating alone. In this regard, both All India University Employees Confederation and Joint Forum For Movement on Education have extended their support to the all India bandh on December 8.
The farmers’ call for a one-day Bandh has also united the opposition parties, with over 15 of them lending support to the protesting farmers’ groups in their fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party – led government.
Harpal Singh, organising secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) – Haryana unit, told NewsClick over phone from Singhu border that in his state, “all” the khap panchayats – numbering over 100 – have also supported the bandh call.
Speaking about the plan, he said, “We have given a call to block highways till 3 PM; citizens across the country are also appealed to shut their shops throughout the day in support of the protesting farmers.” He added that only exemption of movement will be given to ambulances and emergency services.
All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary Hannan Mollah said that even as the bandh has been “certainly” called to put pressure on the Centre to accept the demands of the protesting farmers, he is not “hopeful” of achieving any conclusive solution out of the ongoing talks.
“The Centre is merely trying to kill the time and waiting for the protests to subside on its own. It is now up to us as to for how long can we maintain the pressure through our agitations,” Mollah, who is among the farmers’ negotiators with the central government told NewsClick, adding, “It is in this context that the bandh call and the need for it to be successful throughout the country needs to be seen.”
23 Gujarat Farmer Groups Form Umbrella Body
As many as 23 farmer groups have formed an umbrella body called Gujarat Khedut Sangharsh
Samiti and extended support to Tuesday's 'Bharat bandh' call given by those protesting against the Centre's three new farm laws, reports PTI.
The decision to form such an umbrella organisation was taken at a meeting of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj and Gujarat Kisan Sabha on Sunday, said Jayesh Patel, president of Gujarat
"We have extended support to Tuesday's bandh in
support of farmers. We will hold protests all over Gujarat on December 10, and a day later, we have organised a 'Kisan Sansad' at Satyagrah Chhavni in Gandhinagar. On December 12, farmers from here will march to Delhi to join the protests there," he said.
Also read: ‘It’s the Struggle of Common People that Farmers are Fighting ‘