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Farmers’ Bharat Bandh: Nationwide Protest on Feb 16, What’s Closed Tomorrow?

The central trade unions and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) have called for a statewide Gramin Bharat Bandh strike on February 16 in order to put their demands before the federal government. It invited all farmer organizations to band together and participate in the Gramin Bharat Bandh, which the central trade unions had called for on February 16.

The Bharat Bandh demand came after hundreds of farmers marching from Punjab were halted at the state’s border with Haryana near Ambala, roughly 200 kilometers from Delhi. Haryana security personnel used tear gas to disperse them. A Delhi Police source stated that if the demonstrators approach, they will not be allowed to enter the national capital.

The non-political Samyukta Kisan Morcha has called on other farmer organizations with similar goals to come together and participate in the Bharat bandh. The day-long demonstration will go from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Gramin Bharat Bandh: What is likely to be impacted?

Transportation, agricultural operations, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) rural works, private offices, village stores, and rural industrial and service sector institutions are all scheduled to be closed on Friday, February 16, owing to farmer unions’ statewide strike.

Some reports claimed that emergency services such as ambulance operations, newspaper distribution, marriage, medical shops, students going for board exams, etc., are unlikely to be affected during the strike.

What are the farmers’ demands?

Farmers are back on the streets of Punjab and Haryana with their demand for a law guaranteeing a Minimum Support Price or MSP for their produce.

The farmers also want to strengthen the MGNREGS, reinstate the old pension scheme, and ensure pension and social security for all workers in both formal and informal sectors.

The SKM has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding a MSP for crops based on the Swaminathan formula of C2 50 (input cost of capital 50 per cent), legal guarantee of procurement, debt waiver, no hike in electricity tariff and no smart metres.

Among their demands are free 300 units of power for agricultural and home usage, full crop insurance, and a monthly pension increase of ₹10,000.

What happened to the government-appointed group on MSPs constituted during the 2021 farmers’ protest?

The Bharat Bandh on Friday would not impact emergency services like ambulance operations, marriages, medical businesses, schools, etc.

On Wednesday, a group of public intellectuals and artists published a joint declaration in support of workers and farmers’ request for a sectoral industrial strike and Grameen Bharat Bandh on February 16.

The joint statement, signed by 34 persons, calls on people from all walks of life “to extend all support to this momentous action” by farmers and workers.

Some of the signatories to the declaration include economist Prabhat Patnaik, historian Irfan Habib, economic historian Nasir Tyabji, cultural activist Anil Chandra, and journalist P Sainath.

“The Central Trade Unions (CTUs) and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) have given a united call for an Industrial/Sectoral Strike and Grameen Bharat Bandh on 16 February. They have joined forces to launch united and coordinated struggles and bring together all sections of the labouring classes who face the severest brunt of the attack by the BJP-led government’s pro-corporate, anti-people policies,” the statement read.

The statement claimed that the farmers and workers have joined hands to create a far more powerful force to challenge the government’s ever-more aggressive offensive on their lives and livelihoods and its poisonous communal propaganda to disrupt any united struggle. This force will gain increasing momentum as it takes its campaign to the farthest corners of the country, the statement said.

‘Dilli Chalo’ protest

Farmers from Punjab are camping at the Shambhu and Khanauri borders of Punjab and Haryana seeking to march towards Delhi to press the Centre to accept their demands.

The Delhi Police has placed orders for more than 30,000 tear gas shells, an official said, as the force prepares to prevent Punjab farmers from entering the national capital under their ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest.

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