Bharat Bandh: Nationwide strike by farmers sees highways blocked, toll plazas opened up, rallies held

The call for the strike had been raised by SKM and trade unions to support the ongoing ‘Chalo Delhi’ protest by farmers, highlight the unfulfilled promises of the union government
Image: Twitter

A call to hold a sectoral industrial strike and a ‘Grameen Bharat Bandh’ on February 16 had been given by several farmer organisations and unions, including the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) with the aim of pressing the Modi-led union government to deliver on their promise to bring in a law guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP) and to support the protesting farmers being prevented by the Haryana government from reaching Delhi.  The SKM (non-political) had urged all like-minded farmers’ organisations to unite and take part in the said Bharat Bandh.

In addition to supporting the demands being raised by the farmers participating in the ‘Chalo Delhi’ protest, which include a law on MSP, justice for the victims for Lakhimpur Kheri violence, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, the farmers participating in the nation-wide Bandh are also raising their demands. As per Kirti Kisan Union leader Karmjeet Singh, the demands being raised through this strike includes “the repeal of four labour codes, to double the days under MNREGA to 200, and to cancel the hit-and-run law. The whole country and Punjab is one and it’s supporting the ‘Bharat Bandh.” 

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait also participated in the nationwide strike to show his support and stated “The road has not been blocked in Muzzafarnagar, the route has been diverted. This (Grameen Bharat Bandh call) will continue till 2-3 pm. Tomorrow, a monthly panchayat is in Sisoli (village in UP’s Meerut) where the future course of action will be decided.”

Visuals from February 16 shows farmers and trade union from many parts of the country successfully holding this day long protest, which began at 6 am continued till 4 pm. According to a report by The Indian Express, farmers planned join massive chakka jams on main roads nationwide, closing most of the state and national highways. Notably, essential services such as the purchase and supply of vegetables and grains also remained suspended, along with village shops, agricultural activities, rural works, and MNREGA works are urged to be closed. Grain markets, rural industrial and private sector entities, and vegetable markets were not opened today at many places during the bandh. 

In Jind, Haryana farmers and labourers gathered and demonstrated in the market

Rajasthan also saw tractors in thousands being lined up in support of the strike.

With the farmers taking over the Saini Majra Toll on Ambala-Kaithal Highway and being freed for three hours, traffic was allowed to be passed without toll.

A similar visual also emerged from Kurukshetra Highway, with the toll being freed for three hours to show support to the ongoing ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest.

Trade Unions in Odisha’s Rourkela also joined in on the ‘Bharat Bandh’ protest.

Zirakpur-Banur highway was also blocked by the farmers

Buses remaining parked at the bus stand in Amritsar could be seen in view of the protesting farmers calling Bharat Bandh.

A video of a bake rally being taken out in Karnal by All India Kisan Sabha in support of the protesting farmers also went viral on social media.

Protest was also held in a market in Shimla

A rally named ‘Rasta Roko’ was also taken out in Greater Noida

Tamil Nadu saw a massive protest in support of the protest

A rally of majority of women could be seen being taken out at Vasai, Palghar district of Maharashtra 

This call for the nationwide strike by SKM was also supported by public intellectuals and artists, who had issued a joint statement condoning the said call. 

Meanwhile, one day after the three union ministers had assured the farmer leaders of a ceasefire from the government side while the talks between the two parties were taking place, more visuals of tear gas and rubber pellets being fired at the protests farmers surfaced. Today itself, a death was reported from the protest site allegedly due to inhaling of the tear gas.


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