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Mixed Response To K’taka Shutdown, As BJP, Congress Spar Over Bills

Bengaluru:    The day-long shutdown by the farmers and others on Monday evoked mixed response in Karnataka amid tight security, even as the ruling BJP and opposition Congress sparred over the bills to amend the APMC Act and the Land Reforms Act.

“The shutdown was mixed but peaceful, barring a few stray incidents. The shutdown evoked good response in the old Mysuru (southern) region, partial in Malnad but tepid in coastal and northern regions across the state,” a home ministry official told IANS here.

In the Bengaluru, hundreds of farmers, pro-Kannada activists, labourers, workers and trade union members staged a massive demonstration at Town Hall in the city centre and a held a protest rally to Freedom Park, shouting slogans against the state and Central governments for its ‘anti-farmer’ bills.

“About 300 protesters were detained at the Mysuru Bank circle in the city centre when they tried to block vehicular traffic and force shops and eateries to shut,” a police officer told IANS.

Farmers’ leaders Kodihalli Chandrashekar and Kurburu Shanth Kumar and Kannada Rakshana Vedike President Narayan Gowda addressed the gathering at Town Hall and Freedom Park, urging the state government to withdraw the bills passed in the state legislature on Saturday, as they were against the farmers and the rural people.

Heavy police deployment thwarted some protesters from taking out a bike rally from Town Hall to Freedom Park to prevent disruption to vehicular traffic in the central business district on the first working day of the week.

Though normal life was not disrupted in this tech hub, as pubic transport services like buses and metro rail operated normally and government and private offices reopened after the holiday on Sunday, there were not many customers in shops and eateries across the city.

Hundreds of farmers and protesters blocked vehicular traffic on Bengaluru-Mysuru state highway at Ramanagara, Chennapatna and Mandya but were whisked away to clear the stranded vehicles later.

While farmers were allowed to stage protest rallies and demonstrations in cities and towns across the state peacefully, the police prevented them from disrupting normal life, close shops or disturb movement of buses.

Though intra and inter-state bus services were not suspended, their frequency was curtailed, as commuters were less than on a normal working day, even as the protesters raised slogans, burnt effigies and held banners against the ‘anti-farmer’ bills.

The shutdown call got mixed to poor response in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Bagalkote, Kalaburagi and Bidar in the state’s coastal and northern regions.

In Kalaburagi, bus services were withdrawn, as farmer associations and pro-Kannada outfits staged a protest at the central bus stand.

“Though there were commuters at the bus stand, the services were withdrawn as a precautionary measure,” a state transport official said.

In Bidar, farmers alleged that the BJP government in the state and the NDA government in the Centre were neglecting them and helping corporates to exploit them by buying their produce at lower prices.

The state-wide bandh call got poor response in Malnad region, including Shivamogga, which is Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyiurappa’s home district, and Bhadarvati.

Unfazed by the protests and shutdown, Yediyurappa told reporters here that he would tour the state and explain to the farmers the benefits of the amended APMC Act and the Land Reforms Act.

“The Congress is conspiring with the protesters and using the gullible farmers to oppose the bills. I invited them (farmer leaders) for talks, but the talks failed due to the machination of the Congress. I am not sitting here to enjoy power but to help the farmers. These bills will change their lives forever,” the Chief Minister said.

Upset with the farmers terming him as “son of corporates and not son of the soil”, Yediyurappa said he was not the one to stick to power by cheating farmers.

Reiterating that the bills would help eliminate middle-men from agri-business, the Chief Minister told the farmers wait for at least eight months to a year to reap the benefits of the bills.

Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, however, dared the Chief Minister to prove how the new laws enacted by the Parliament and the state Assembly were beneficial to farmers.

“Let Yediyurappa dissolve the assembly and face elections on the amended laws. The people will defeat him and the BJP,” Siddaramaiah said in a statement here.

(IANS)

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