Mumbai: The ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by farmer unions and supported by a number of opposition parties evoked a good response in Maharashtra on Tuesday, especially in rural and semi-rural areas, with no reports of any violence, organisers and officials said.
Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari, Sena Minister Abdul Sattar, SSS leader Raju Shetti, NCP leaders Jayant Patil, Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, All India Kisan Sabha leaders Ashok Dhawale and Ajit Nawale, apart from CPI-CPM leaders termed the shutdown “successful”.
While all APMCs across the state remained deserted without conducting any transactions in the morning, shops and commercial establishments — particularly in cities and towns — remained largely unaffected as the retailers’ organisations kept away from the shutdown.
Many towns in Konkan districts of Thane, Palghar, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Sindhudurg, besides Marathwada, north and western Maharashtra and Vidarbha region participated in the shutdown though essential services were functioning normally.
In major cities like Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik, and Kolhapur, the morning peak-hour traffic movement was largely normal though farmer organisation Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) had announced it will set up road and rail blockades later.
Road blockades were set up by bandh supporters in Thane, Palghar, Solapur, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik and certain other districts, who were later dispersed by the police and security forces.
Though a majority of wholesale markets across the state remained shut, retail vegetable markets and local vendors were seen plying their trades in the morning in some cities.
While a majority of public bus services, taxies, auto-rickshaws, aggregator cabs, a few heavy vehicles carrying essential stuffs, and others providing items of daily use functioned normally, state transport buses operated on certain important routes only during the day.
Leading an agitation, Minister of State Omprakash Babarao Kadu, alias Bachu Kadu, called the three new central farm laws as a “dacoity committed on farmers” by the BJP-led central government and demanded their repeal.
Participating in a sit-in, Minister of State Abdul Sattar termed the new farm laws as ‘Hitler-style assault’ on farmers which he said was never done by any government or even the British rulers in the past.
Congress Minister Vijay Wadettiwar demanded that “the BJP must give up its arrogance and immediately revoked the 3 farm laws” which he claimed are designed to destroy the farmers of the country.
Sena Minister Dada Bhuse said that the BJP should have consulted farmers’ organisations before implementing these farm laws to ensure complete transparency.
The state government has already informed the Centre on the various contentious aspects of the three farm laws and expressed hope that these would be resolved.
The Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress organised demonstrations in Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune and other cities to express solidarity with the farmers agitating on the Delhi borders.
In a unique show of support, a large number of gurdwaras and Punjabi ascociations organised human chains between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, besides holding a vehicle rally.
Several parties came together to hold a motorcycle rally in Thane, but it was scuttled midway by the police on the ground that it hampered traffic.
The ‘Bharat Bandh’ is supported by the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi allies Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party, Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, most Dalit parties, the CPI, CPM and other Leftist parties, several students organisations and students of major academic institutions, the Trade Unions Joint Action Committee with scores of trade unions, including all bank unions in the state, besides many other big and small groups with employees in the trade and commerce sectors.
In a surprise development, 83-year-old social crusader Kisan Baburao alias Anna Hazare also joined farmers’ agitation by holding a daylong token hunger strike at his native village Ralegan-Siddhi in Ahmednagar.
However, the state’s opposition BJP and its allies have kept off the shutdown and accused all the other parties of misleading the farmers and people.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut reiterated that this is not “a political bandh”, and asked the BJP to support the farmers’ cause instead of trying to mislead the people of the country.