New DelhI: Farmers’ leaders, buoyed by support from across the country and even the Indian diaspora, have called for a ‘Janata Curfew/Bharat Bandh’ (countrywide strike) on December 8, to be preceded by effigy burning of Prime Minister Narendra Modi today (December 5) and complete choking off of all roads leading to Delhi.
This clear escalation of the ongoing protest against three farm laws comes even as the fourth round of talks between farmers’ leaders and the Central government started today at 2 p.m.
The call for intensifying and widening of the protests was given by the “Delhi Chalo - Samyukta Kisan Morcha” (SKM) comprising AIKSCC, RKMS, BKU (various groups) and the Coordination Committee of the Punjab Kisan organisations.
This comes as the farmers perceived the government’s stance on the laws as unacceptable. In the last round of negotiations on December 3, the government had said that they will consider tweaking the laws on certain points. It was clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was not going to withdraw the laws, which is the central demand of farmers.
The SKM is of the “unanimous opinion that all the three anti-farmer and pro-corporate Farm Laws must be repealed and the Electricity Bill 2020 must be withdrawn”, said a statement issued by the AIKSCC on Friday, on the eve of today’s talks.
The statement, released by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), a member of the Sangharsh Coordination Committee spearheading the movement, appealed to “all sections of the people including workers, traders, petty producers, students, youth and women” to extend solidarity and “come shoulder to shoulder” in support of the Janata Curfew / Bharat Bandh.
Farmers have declared that “Kisan activists will organize Rasta Roko /Rail Roko and demonstrations as part of the people’s curfew” on December 8.
Today, there have been reports of effigies of the Narendra Modi Government and the corporate giants like Ambani and Adani being burnt in several parts of the country as part of the build up to the Janata Curfew and to express anger at the three laws which the Modi government rammed through Parliament in September.
AIKS also called upon all kisan organisations to “extend the struggle in front of Toll Plazas across the country and keep them open to all vehicles” implying that they will prevent collection of toll at the plazas.
Significantly, the farmers’ organisations have also called for “Kisan Marches through the remaining National Highways to Delhi” by farmers from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh. This is to block the highways the same way as the ones coming from the north and west, and at Noida are currently blocked.
Meanwhile, the joint forum is of 10 central trade unions -- Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC), Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) -- has extended its support to a call of 'Bharat Bandh' by farmer organisations on December 8.
In a joint statement, the joint forum said it offers "wholehearted support to the ongoing united struggles of the farmers demanding scrapping of draconian agri laws". The Joint Platform and Sectoral Federations/Associations called upon the workers, employees and their unions, irrespective of affiliations, to organise active solidarity to the farmer organisations' call for 'Bharat Bandh'.
In an earlier statement, indicating the rising support for the farmers’ struggle which entered its 10th day today, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) expressed its “total support and solidarity to the Janata Curfew/ Bharat Bandh” on December 8. In a statement, the CITU said that “instead of conceding to their demand of the repeal of the Acts, the BJP government, in its discussions with the farmers’ organisations till now, has been offering cosmetic changes in the laws”.
Pointing towards the misinformation campaign carried out on behalf of the government, CITU said that the struggle was not just localised to Punjab but farmers from Haryana Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan etc are “marching to reach the national capital, as are those from “several other states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha etc.
The call by one of India’s largest trade unions may see the support of industrial working class coming out in large numbers over the next few days, and especially on December 8. It is likely that other trade unions will join CITU in this support and solidarity. It may be recalled that in the one day strike on November 25, ten central trade unions and dozens of independent federations had already supported the farmers’ demands.
The Left parties – CPI, CPI(M), Forward Bloc and RSP – too have extended support to the call for Bharat Bandh/Janata Curfew.
In the past few days, several states across the country have seen huge farmer protests against the three laws and in solidarity with the farmers who were blocking the highways around Delhi since November 27. These include Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir and the north-eastern states.
The three laws, according to the farmers, will completely hand over the country’s agriculture and agri-trade to corporate entities, reducing farmers to wage labourers or even causing the loss of land they own. The laws provide for scrapping the government-run Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees and setting up of a private trader-based system, with no guarantee of either government procurement or provision of government assured Minimum Support Prices for 22 essential foodgrains, as is done now. It is feared that this would lead to a huge loss to farmers while the public distribution system too will be destroyed.
Another of the laws removes current limits on stocks and storage of essential commodities and even weakens the price controls, thus paving the way for hoarding and profiteering. The third law opens the doors to contract farming where corporate bodies will decide on crops, their quality and their prices.