Farmers’ Union Calls for Gramin Bharat Bandh, Disrupting Agricultural Activities Nationwide

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In a significant development, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a prominent farmers’ union, has announced a Gramin Bharat Bandh scheduled for February 16 from 6 am to 4 pm. This strike, focused on rural areas, is set to suspend all agricultural activities, with village shops, markets, and businesses closing their doors. The bandh has gained widespread support from various workers’ unions, including endorsements from left parties and the Congress.

It is crucial to note that this Gramin Bharat Bandh is distinct from the ongoing farmers’ protest at the Punjab-Haryana border, initiated by farmers primarily from Punjab. The ‘Chalo Dilli’ movement, which began on February 13, seeks a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP) and encompasses a range of other demands. The protesters, led by the non-political Samyukta Kisan Morcha and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, intended to reach Delhi but have been halted by Haryana police at the Punjab-Haryana borders, where they have been camping since February 13 night.

The farmers’ union landscape has witnessed splinters since the 2020-21 protest that compelled the government to repeal three contentious farm laws. Despite not participating in the ‘Chalo Dilli’ protest, the umbrella body, Samyukt Kisan Morcha, has called for the Gramin Bharat bandh along with Central Trade Unions.

Both protests share common demands, including MSP for all crops based on the Swaminathan Commission recommendations, a legal guarantee of procurement, debt waiver, no increase in electricity tariff, and opposition to smart meters. Other demands include free power units for farming, domestic use, and shops, comprehensive crop insurance, and a pension hike to ₹10,000 per month.

The escalation of the farmers’ protest is evident with the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s decision to initiate a toll-free period in Haryana. Additionally, a tractor parade in every Tehsil is planned for the day after tomorrow, followed by a joint meeting of all farmers’ and labor organizations on February 18.

The Gramin Bharat Bandh, jointly called by Samyukta Kisan Morcha and Central Trade Unions, aims to suspend all agricultural work from 6 am to 4 pm. Notable personalities, including economist Prabhat Patnaik, historian Irfan Habib, and journalist P Sainath, have expressed their support for the strike. On February 16, the Gramin Bharat Bandh will merge with the ongoing farmers’ protest, as farmers plan to stage a chakka jam on main roads nationwide from 12 pm to 4 pm, potentially disrupting transportation across the country.

Despite assurances that emergency services will remain unaffected, the Bharat Bandh is expected to impact the supply and purchase of vegetables and other crops. Amidst the protest, the Congress party has pledged to provide a legal guarantee for MSP if elected to power, leading to a political debate with the BJP questioning the party’s previous actions regarding the Swaminathan Commission report in 2010.

While the Samyukta Kisan Morcha assures that students going to exams will not face issues during the Gramin Bharat Bandh, there are calls to postpone exams in Punjab, where the strike’s impact is anticipated to be the most significant.

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