Bharat Bandh: Samyukt Kisan Morcha finds plenty of support on first anniversary of new farm laws

From 6 am in the morning today to 4 pm in the evening, several shops, educational institutions, industries and commercial establishments will remain closed throughout the country.

The bandh has been proposed by Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) who are still fighting against the contentious farm laws introduced last year. Punjab’s newly elected CM Charanjit Singh Channi and Bihar’s leader of opposition Tejaswi Yadav have already extended their support for the bandh.


Congress’ spokesperson Gourav Vallabh blamed PM Narendra Modi for introducing these laws and accused him of turning a blind eye towards protestors. “The Modi government is responsible for all round ruin of the farm sector. And now they are turning a blind eye towards the farmers who have been protesting for nine months braving the elements at the Delhi border. 600 farmers have died in this agitation but the government still insists on not talking about the farm law,” he was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.


Why did the farmers go on strike?


Last year, the government hastily passed three laws that left (arguably) farmers at the mercy of corporates. The new laws allowed private companies to set up their own mandis, hoard as much agricultural produce as they want and enter into legal contracts with farmers without facing the risk of any significant legal action.


Farmers want at least a minimum price guarantee for their crops (called Minimum Support Price). As it is, farmers were struggling and as many as 3.65 lakh of them have committed suicide since 1995.


Who is taking care of the farms?


Usually, it is the older members of the family who are attending the protests. Most of the younger farmers are busy working on their land. It is expected that once the harvest season is over, more people will attend the protests.


Also, some people are taking turns to attend the protests. This is to ensure that the farms don’t get ignored as it is their source of livelihood.


Are the farmers blocking traffic?


No, they have organized the protests in a peaceful and non-intrusive manner. If anyone is blocking traffic, it is the police force who are trying to stop more farmers from attending the protests.


It must be noted that farmers are doing what they have to do because they have no other choice. It is a matter of survival for them. If the government accepted their demands, they would stop facing the hardship of living in makeshift tents and tractors.


When will the protests end?


The protests are getting stronger and showing no signs of dying down. Despite conventional media not giving farmers the coverage that they deserve, there has been support from many corners. From organizing langars (free food) to providing essential commodities, several well-wishers have contributed heavily. And no, it’s not the opposition party that is funding these protests.


Till July this year, almost 537 farmers had died as a result of the protests.


Why are farmers so adamant? Shouldn’t they accept the new laws?


There have been several meetings held between the government and the farmers union. Unfortunately, nothing concrete has come out of those meetings. The government has agreed to make amendments but farmers want a total repeal.


In an interview with The Wire, one of the farmers said, “They want to keep the box intact and change the contents inside a bit. But we say the box itself is bad and as long as that remains, our future as farmers is in jeopardy. Nothing short of a complete repeal is acceptable.”


References:


1. Bharat Bandh tomorrow: From timings to support for shutdown and services affected, what you need to know (Firstpost)

2. A Delhiwallah's Answers to 10 FAQs About the Farmers' Protest (The Wire)

3. Bharat Bandh: Which political parties support September 27 farmers' strike? (Hindustan Times)

4. India farmers' protest: Living on a highway in protest (BBC)