Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Farmers listen to a speaker on a blocked highway as they attend a protest against the newly passed farm bills at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghaziabad. (REUTERS)



The ministry of home affairs (MHA) on Tuesday asked all states and union territories to strictly enforce Covid-19 protocol and make adequate security arrangements for Bharat bandh on Tuesday, called by various farmer bodies protesting against the three farm bills passed in the monsoon session of Parliament.

All opposition parties except Biju Janata Dal and YSR Congress, and major labour and worker unions have extended support to the bandh call which is likely to have impact in Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, western Uttar Pradesh, and parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana.

In an advisory, the home ministry has also asked the police departments and state governments to ensure that all Covid-19 guidelines issued are strictly adhered to by the protestors, officials familiar with the matter said.

“Peace and tranquillity should be maintained during Bharat bandh and security arrangements should be in place to avoid any untoward incident,” the advisory said.

After the MHA advisory, several state governments such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh issued instructions to district officers to take “stern action” for those resorting to violence and violating Covid-19 guidelines.

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The bandh, which will start in the morning and will continue till 3 pm, is expected to have a major impact in Punjab, where all political parties, traders bodies, truck union and mandi associations have extended support. The Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC), the highest religious body of Sikhs, on Tuesday said the strike will be complete.

In Haryana, five legislators of deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) have extended support to the protest. All major markets in the state are expected to remain closed with farmer bodies planning blockades along major highways. Haryana’s Additional Director General of Police (ADGP-law and order) Navdeep Singh Virk said the public may have to face traffic blockages while travelling on various roads and highways of the state on December 8.

“The main national highways Delhi-Ambala (NH-44), Delhi-Hisar (NH-9), Delhi-Palwal (NH-19) and Delhi to Rewari (NH-48) may also see some traffic disruptions for a short time. The peak time of impact is expected to be between 12 pm to 3 pm, the officer said.

In Uttar Pradesh, opposition party leaders Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party and Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party asked its workers to participate in the bandh. Police officials expect the bandh to have impact in western UP, where Bharatiya Kisan Union has sizeable influence. UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, however, accused the opposition parties of making a ‘nasty bid’ to create a situation of anarchy and disorder in the country by using innocent farmers as a cover.

“The opposition parties are trying to mislead innocent farmers on the Centre’s revolutionary and historic laws to further their selfish political ends,” Adityanath said.

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In Rajasthan, various farmer bodies have announced to block all highways in the state till 3 pm even as chief minister Ashok Gehlot exhorted protestors to maintain peace. President, Rajasthan Kissan Mahapanchat, Rampal Jat said, “Over 50 farmer organisations of the state are supporting the bandh and there will be complete closedown tomorrow.”

In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena along with alliance partners, the Congress and Nationalist Congress party, supported the bandh.

In Madhya Pradesh, over 50 farmer bodies have decided to block traffic at various highways on Tuesday.

Gujarat has invoked prohibitory orders across the state to prevent any major protests, officials said.

There would be no strike in Kerala, where local body polls are to be held on Tuesday, even though the state government on Monday decided to approach the Supreme Court against three farmer bills.

“Agriculture falls into the state list as per the seventh schedule of the constitution. States were not consulted before bringing such legislation and farmers’ bodies were also kept in the dark. We feel this legislation will only benefit big corporate houses engaged in the sector,” said state agriculture minister VS Sunil Kumar, adding that they support the farmer protests.

In Tamil Nadu, DMK chief M K Stalin will lead the protests whereas in Telangana, chief minister K Chandrashekhar Roa has asked all party workers to ensure complete bandh.

The opposition Congress, Janata Dal (Secular) and pro-Kannada bodies have supported the bandh in Karnataka. However, in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha the ruling parties, YSR Congress and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) have decided not to support the bandh.

In West Bengal and Jharkhand, the bandh is expected to have an impact as all main parties and trade unions have given a call for complete strike.

“Our government does not support strikes but the TMC fully supports farmers struggle,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

In Bihar, although RJD has given a call for strike, the impact may not be much as the government has invoked prohibitory orders on assembly of four people or more across the state. Additional Director General of Police (headquarters) Jitendra Kumar said all district officers have been instructed to ensure law and order and deal sternly with those trying to resort to violence.

Thousands of farmers at Delhi’s borders under the aegis of 32 farmer bodies from Punjab are protesting against the Centre’s new law agricultural laws for past 11 days demanding that they be repealed. Five rounds of talks with the government have not yielded any results and the next round of talks is on December 9.

“The response is overwhelming, not only Punjab or the neighbouring state, it would be a total bandh in the entire country,” said BS Rajewal president of a faction of Bharatiya Kisan union who is camping at Singhu border since November 26.