New Delhi, September 27

Life in parts of India, particularly Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh, was disrupted on Monday as a nationwide shutdown against three agri laws got under way with protesters blocking highways and key roads, and squatting on railway tracks in some places.

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The Bharat Bandh, called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farm unions, marks one year since President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the three controversial laws and 10 months since thousands of farmers set up camp at Delhi’s border points to voice their protest.

The bandh is in effect from 6 am to 4 pm.

Though much of the country was unaffected, commuters in north India felt the pinch with trains being cancelled or delayed and massive traffic snarls that prevented cross-border movement. This particularly impacted the Delhi-NCR region, including the satellite towns of Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Noida, with many thousands crossing borders each day to go to work or study.

Public transport was hit in Kerala where the strike is supported by the ruling LDF and the opposition Congress-led UDF. KSRTC bus services were off the road with almost all trade unions in the state taking part. People who had to travel opted for private modes of transport while others stayed home.

Union leaders, including INTUC state president R Chandrasekharan, had said the shutdown would be peaceful and there would be no blocking of vehicles or forced shutting down of shops.

Protests were also seen in West Bengal where the Left Front backed the call for a shutdown. Images from Kolkata showed protesters swarming a section of a railway track. Similar images came in from West Midnapore with Left Front supporters blocking the IIT Kharagpur-Hijri railway line.

In the national capital, autorickshaws and taxis plied normally and shops were open with unions and associations extending only “in-principle support” to the Bharat Bandh called by farmers.

However, there was chaos at the city’s borders, including at Ghazipur in western Uttar Pradesh where farmers blocked the highway to prevent any movement of vehicles. Not far away in Sonepat in Haryana, some farmers squatted on tracks. In nearby Patiala in Punjab, too, members of the BKU-Ugrahan sat on the tracks to register their protest.

Punjab saw a complete shutdown in many places, including Moga, where farmers blocked the Moga-Ferozepur and Moga-Ludhiana national highways. Farmer leaders from Punjab have, in many ways, spearheaded the year-long protest.

Down south, in Karnataka, the shutdown did not have any major impact in the initial few hours with all business and establishments functioning normally and transport services available. However, farmers’ attempts to organise a ‘Rasta Roko’ at major national and state highways led to disruption in vehicular movement in several parts of the state, especially in the capital Bengaluru.

In Guwahati, activists of the Socialist Unity Centre of India took out a protest march.

All emergency establishments and essential services, including hospitals, medical stores, relief and rescue work and people attending to personal emergencies have been exempted from the strike.

Many non-NDA parties have extended support to the nationwide 10-hour strike. These include the Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Left parties and Swaraj India. The YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh has also announced support to the Bharat Bandh.

The SKM on Sunday had appealed for complete peace during the bandh and urged all Indians to join the strike.

“It is a day to express support to the annadatas (farmers) of the country, the ones who keep all Indians alive,” it said in a statement. PTI

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