The Bharat bandh called by protesting farmers for Tuesday is expected to hit daily life and business in some parts of the country, but the overall impact may be limited with banks and markets set to function as usual.
But with as many as 20 political parties — ranging from the Shiv Sena to Owaisi’s AIMIM — extending support to the bandh, it is seen as one of the major strikes in recent years.
Farmer associations and non-governmental organisations in Telangana and Karnataka said they will participate in the bandh. In Gujarat, on the other hand, farmers are divided over supporting the bandh, but the Vijay Rupani government has imposed Section 144 on Tuesday prohibiting assembly of more than four persons across the State. There will not be any bandh in Kerala as the local body polls are on in the State.
Even as the bandh call got support from across the country from political parties and other organisations, the Centre does not appear to be relenting, as earlier during the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the inaugural of the Agra Metro Rail Project, said: “Reforms are needed for development.. We cannot build the next century with the laws of the previous century… Reforms should be a continuous process.”
The BJP, too, blamed the “shameful, deceitful and duplicitous” opposition, particularly the Congress and Sharad Pawar-led NCP, for joining the farmers’ agitation against precisely reforms they had been advocating in their years in government.
Support from bank staff
Though many transporters and their organisations are supporting the bandh, the impact on availability of milk, fruits and vegetables in the Capital and elsewhere is expected to be minimal. The Confederation of All India Traders and the All India Transport Welfare Association said their members will not participate in bandh, but urged the government to look into the farmers` demands and resolve the issues at the earliest.
While the All India Motor Transport Congress has decided to extend support to the strike, a one-day strike will not mean much for truckers in terms of impact barring some route deviations, said SP Singh, Senior Fellow, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training. The AIMTC had said that it stands by the farmers despite disruptions to its business.
Anyway, unlike traders, who work mainly during day, truckers usually drive through the night and avoid city limits during day.
The All India Bank Employees’ Association said that it supports the farmers’ genuine demands, but that its members would work wearing black badges and may even participate in demonstrations and rallies locally. “Currently, there is neither any increase in vegetable prices nor any shortage in Delhi. The agitating farmers are allowing trucks to come in through parallel roads. I cannot say whether there will be any disruptions (because of the bandh). Since, most traders are BJP supporters, I presume they will make sure that mandis function,” said Rajinder Sharma, a trader and former chairman of Azadpur Mandi APMC.
However, Meeta Ram Kriplani, President of Azadpur Fruits and Vegetable Merchants Association, said that “vegetable prices have gone up 20 per cent since the farmer agitation has started. There is a 20-40 per cent drop in arrivals too as truckers do not want to carry them for the fear getting stopped.”
Even milk suppliers are taking alternative routes to maintain normal supplies. A Mother Dairy spokesperson said, “At Mother Dairy, we are taking all measures to manage adequate milk and food and vegetable supplies in the region and are also working on possible alternatives.”
(With inputs from Poornima Joshi in Delhi, Rutam Vora in Ahmedabad and KV Kurmanath in Hyderabad)