India witnesses initial mixed response to 'Bharat Bandh' call
New Delhi, December 8, 2020
Early reports from across the country showed a mixed response to the 'Bharat Bandh' call given by the farmer unions on Tuesday as no major disturbance has been reported from anywhere.
The shutdown -- from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- focuses primarily on "chakka jaam" (no vehicular movement). However, its effect on the movement of vehicles is yet to be ascertained.
The call was supported by various Opposition political parties. The morning peak-hour traffic movement was by and large normal across the country except in a few states.
A partial impact of the "bandh" was seen in vegetable markets in the national capital and various others states but commercial establishments, particularly in cities and towns, are likely to be not affected as the retailers' organisations have kept away from the shutdown call.
There was some impact of the "Bandh" call on inter-state bus services and the passengers reached railway stations a bit early in the wake of the nationwide protest.
State and city borders were open, and public vehicles like auto-rickshaw, taxis, aggregator cabs and some heavy vehicles carrying essential items were witnessed moving on roads.
Wholesale markets, retail vegetable markets and local vendors were functioning partially in many states.
Cold response was seen in Tamil Nadu while there was growing solidarity for the farmers' cause in Odisha and Telangana.
In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party workers stopped the Bundelkhand Express at Prayagraj and squatted on the railway track, leading to a scuffle with the police.
Very few vehicles were seen on roads in Bihar in the morning as the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) led by Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav spearheaded the support to the "Bharat Bandh".
The shutdown received a mixed response in the national capital with most of the businesses and transport services remaining normal in the national capital.
A heavy police deployment was made at the wholesale vegetable and grain market to prevent pro-Bandh activists from forcing closure of shops.
At Azadpur Mandi, one of Asia's largest vegetable markets, the response was lukewarm.
Some shops opened while others, anticipating less merchandise reaching the wholesale bazaar, remained shut. Ghazipur and Okhla Mandis also witnessed mixed response, with very few people around.
The usually crowded Ghazipur vegetable market also wore a deserted look as not many shops were open.
The farmers continued to block the Delhi-Meerut National Highway 24 near Ghazipur as large contingents of the police and the paramilitary force guarded all borders around the national capital.
However, in the city, life seemed to be normal with vehicles plying and roadside shops doing business as usual. E-rickshaws also continued to ply.
Officials at Sarai Kale Khan inter-state bus terminus told IANS that the buses are running as usual and no hindrance has been reported so far. They also said that the service would continue despite the call of Chakka Jaam between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The bus terminus, though, wore a deserted look compared to other days. Employees said that the situation is normal and this is how it has been amid the Covid outbreak.
Traffic was normal at Karnal bypass, the road that leads to Delhi-Haryana's Singhu Border, where the farmers have been protesting for the last 13 days against the new agricultural laws of the Central government.
In the wake of Bharat Bandh, many passengers who wanted to travel to Chandigarh were seen waiting for vehicles on the Karnal highway.
A mixed response was observed in the morning, especially in the urban areas of the state. While all APMCs across the state were deserted in the morning, shops and commercial establishments were open.
The traffic movement in major cities like Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik, and Kolhapur was normal, though farmer organisation Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana has announced road and rail blockades later.
Wholesale markets remained shut.
The 'Bharat Bandh' is supported by the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MA) allies Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party, Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, most Dalit parties, the CPI, CPI-M and other Left parties, several student organisations and students of major academic institutions, Trade Unions Joint Action Committee comprising 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.
Asserting that it's "not a political bandh", the Shiv Sena has appealed to all people to participate voluntarily in support of the farmers across the country who are demanding a repeal of the three new central farm laws.
Very few vehicles were seen on roads in state capital Patna on Tuesday morning as the Mahagathbandhan led by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav spearheaded the support to the 'Bharat Bandh' in the state.
The RJD chief has appealed to his supporters to come out on the streets and support the farmers' protesting against the three central farm laws.
The farmers' agitation is expected to be successful across the state, especially in Maoist-hit districts like Arwal, Jahanabad, Aurangabad, Kaimur, Lakhisarai, Jamui, and Begusarai.
These districts are dominated by the Left parties, especially CPI-MLL along with north Bihar districts like Vaishali, Chapra, Siwan, Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Madhepura, Samastipur, Madhubani, Seetamarhi, and Supaul which are RJD strongholds.
The shutdown is also expected to be successful in Seemanchal districts like Purnea, Araria, Kishanganj and Katihar.
Most people in Patna preferred to stay indoors, stepping out only for important chores.
A mixed response was witnessed in the state in the early hours while the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has said they will hold demonstrations at 65 points in Lucknow on Tuesday afternoon in support of the 'Bharat Bandh' call.
Most of the places are the entry points to the state capital. They include Dewa Sharief, IIM road, Dubagga, Shaheed Path, Gosainganj, Mohanlalganj, Rahimabad, Bakshi Ka Talab, Nigoha, Behta and Vrindavan scheme.
Buses of state-owned Road Transport Corporation in Telangana went off road amid growing support for farmers groups-called Bharat Bandh that received support from all parties in the state except the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
With employee unions of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) backing the shutdown call, buses were confined to depots.
Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station and Jubilee Bus Station, two of the biggest and busiest bus stations in Hyderabad, wore a deserted look. Some commuters who reached the bus stations early morning to board buses to their destinations were seen returning disappointed.
Most of the cabs and auto-rickshaws also went off the roads as the unions of taxi and auto drivers backed the Bharat Bandh.
With the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) declaring total support to the bandh, it is likely to evoke good response across the state.
Opposition Congress, Left and other parties, farmers' and people's organisations and trade unions are also backing the protest.
Ministers, MPs, state legislators and other public representatives will be participating in protests across the state. Chief Minister and TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao has appealed to party cadres to make the bandh a total success.
The 'Bharat Bandh' called received partial response in West Bengal too with protesters burning the effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some business honchos on roads in Kolkata.
The protesters staged a road blockade near Lake Town and Bangur virtually choking the the key arterial stretch that connects Shyambazar through Dum Dum. West Bengal's Left Front-backed organisations also gathered at Kolkata's Jadavpur 8-B bus stand area supporting the shutdown call on Tuesday. They will take out a rally extending support to the shutdown call.
Tram and bus services were also disrupted in Kolkata's College Street area as agitators staged protests on Tuesday morning. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) youth arm members also demonstrated at Esplanade area in support of the shutdown.
West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress has extend "moral support" to the nationwide strike and in solidarity will stage sit-ins in various parts of the state for the next three days.
Roads wore a deserted look in several parts of Odisha as the farmers supported by different political parties and trade unions on Tuesday began holding protests as part of the Bharat Bandh.
Public transportation services were affected as the protesters held picketing at the railway stations and bus stops in Bhubaneswar, Rourkela, Rayagada, and several other places.
Vehicular movement on many routes disrupted with agitators blocking them by burning tyres.
The farmers and political activists also resorted to "rail roko", affecting the train movement in the state.
Normal life was not affected in Chennai and in other parts of Tamil Nadu on Tuesday with state transport buses plying, hotels and shops remaining open despite the Bharat Bandh call given by farmers and supported by opposition parties.
Similarly, government-owned banks and insurance companies will be working as usual though the unions have extended support to the farmer's bandh call. Opposition parties-affiliated auto rickshaw unions have announced that they would be participating in the shutdown.