Farmer groups in Karnataka have called for a statewide bandh on Monday to protest five controversial agriculture-related legislations – three passed by parliament last week (and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind today) and two passed by the state Assembly on Saturday.
The two passed by the Assembly are amendments to existing laws that make it easier to buy agricultural land in the state. The Congress, the principal opposition in Karnataka, said the amendments reflected the BJP government’s aim of keeping farmers as “slaves”.
The farm bills (now laws) passed by parliament will make it easier, the centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have repeatedly claimed, for farmers to sell produce at markets and prices of their choice. Its critics, however, fear the loss of a minimum price support system and that the entry of corporates and private players will put small and marginal farmers at risks.
Protests over the centre’s laws raged across the country this week, including in Karnataka, where a group of farmers met Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa but failed to arrive at an understanding.
Tomorrow’s bandh has been supported by the Congress, whose spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted: “(The) Modi and Yediyurappa governments are snatching the lives and livelihoods of our farmers. The diabolical amendments to Land Reforms Act and APMC Act are proof of (a) conspiracy to enslave our farmers”.
To this the ruling BJP’s Karnataka wing hit back with a tweet of its own.
“For decades (the) short-sighted policies of the Congress enslaved our farmers by snatching their lives & livelihoods. PM Narendra Modi (and the central) government has liberated them and put them on the road to prosperity. Middlemen friendly CONgress is supporting the bandh to prove its existence,” the party tweeted.
For decades, short sighted policies of @INCIndia enslaved Our Farmers by snatching their lives & livelihoods.
PM @narendramodi Govt has liberated & put them on road to prosperity.
— BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) September 27, 2020
The state government is keen to ensure the bandh does not succeed and is trying to ensure a relatively normal Monday.
Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, who also holds the Transport portfolio, said there would no disruption of state-run transportation services, including the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation, for which the police have been asked to provide additional security.
“It is unfortunate some are against the bills which are in favour of our farmers. Government of Karnataka is committed to the welfare of our farmers. Those opposing this bill have called for bandh but actions disrupting and causing harm to the public property, if any, will be dealt with strictly,” he said.
On Saturday an upset Congress tore up papers and walked out of the Assembly to protest the amendments to the state’s land acquisition law.
Karnataka Congress President DK Shivakumar told NDTV his party firmly opposed the amendments and hit out at the BJP who, he said, wanted to keep the farmers as “slaves”.
In an earlier response to the farmers’ protests, the Chief Minister said they may have been “misinformed” about the amendments to the state’s laws and reiterated that “only two per cent of the land can be used for industrial purpose”.