Farmers, workers and people from other walks of lifer gathered at several national highways, key roads and some railway tracks in Punjab and Haryana on Friday morning as part of their nationwide protest against the Centre's new agri laws.
The call, given by Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella of over 40 farmer unions, is being observed from 6 a.m to 6 p.m to mark four months of the farmers' agitation at Delhi's three borders -- Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri.
Almost all Opposition parties, from the Left, Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal among others have backed the Bharat Bandh call by SKM. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee also supported the farmers’ bandh call.
Farmer leaders said trade unions from organised and unorganised sectors, and transport and other associations too have extended support to the call for Bharat Bandh.
In the morning farmers gathered at several highways and roads in Punjab and Haryana, including in Bathinda, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala, Mohali, Rohtak, Jhajjar and Bhiwani districts.
A group of farmers who were holding a protest in Zirakpur and Kharar towns in Punjab, both on the outskirts of Chandigarh, said they were allowing ambulances and other emergency vehicles to pass, PTI reported from Chandigarh. Some of the protesters blocked the Ambala-Delhi highway near Ambala Cantt, police said.
While another group squatted on a railway track near Shahpur village, around five kilometers from Ambala Cantt, due to which all the trains running between Delhi and Saharanpur were stranded, railway officials said.
The farmers also blocked the Ambala-Rajpura Highway on the Haryana-Punjab border near Shambhu barrier, and the Ambala-Hisar Highway near Ambala City.
Blockades on various state highways were also reported in Naraingarh and Mullana in Haryana, police said.
"All shops, malls, markets and institutions will remain closed under complete Bharat Bandh. All minor and big roads and trains will be blocked. All services will remain suspended except for ambulance and other essential services. The effect of Bharat Bandh will be observed inside Delhi as well," SKM had said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), apex religious body of the Sikhs, has also supported the nationwide protest.
SGPC president Jagir Kaur had said on Thursday that its offices would be kept closed on Friday in support of the Bharat Bandh.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for the minimum support price on their crops.
Apart from repealing of three farm laws, the demands of protesting unions include cancellation of all police cases against farmers, withdrawal of electricity and pollution bills, and reduction in prices of diesel, petrol and gas.
So far, there have been 11 rounds of talks between the protesting unions and government, but the deadlock has continued as both sides have stuck to their stand.
In January, the government had offered to suspend the farm laws for 12-18 months, which was rejected by the farmer unions.
According to an IANS report, train services were disrupted at 32 locations in Punjab and Haryana. The Railways also cancelled four Shatabdi Express trains.
Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said, "Agitating farmers are sitting at 32 locations across Punjab and Haryana spanning Delhi, Ambala and Firozepur division affecting rail movement," said the report.
In Delhi, police on Friday closed both carriageways of National Highway-24 passing through the Ghazipur border in view of the 'Bharat Bandh'.
The one side of the carriageway was earlier opened on March 15 for traffic. However, the other side from Ghaziabad towards Delhi is closed since the farmers' protest started.