Punjab, Haryana farmers hit the roads over farm Bills

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Chandigarh: Farmers in Punjab and Haryana on Friday took to the streets in protest against the contentious farm Bills passed by Parliament recently.

Agitating farmers blocked roads, including highways, to press the Centre for the withdrawal of the legislation, which is yet to get the assent of the President.

Road blockades caused hardships to commuters in both states.

Punjab farmers held the agitation as part of a bandh call against the Bills.

The Punjab bandh call is getting support from government employees' unions, singers, commission agents, laborers, and social activists.

Shops, commercial establishments, and vegetable markets at many places remained shut. Shopkeepers have been appealed to keep their shops shut in support of farmers.

Farmers on Thursday had started a three-day rail rook stir against the Bills and squatted on tracks in parts of the state.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said the state government was with them in the fight against the Bills and no FIR will be registered for the violation of Section 144 of the CrPC, which bars assembly of more than four people at a place.

As many as 31 farmers' organizations came together for a complete shutdown of the state.

Among farmers' unions supporting the bandh call are the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Kirti Kisan Union and factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

Buses of the state-owned Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) remained off-road in Punjab on Friday.

While the ruling Congress and AAP have extended support to the protest, the Shiromani Akali Dal held a chakka jaam (road blockade) at many places in Punjab.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh dubbed the passage of the farm bills as a step in the wrong direction.

Farmers are the backbone of our society & the recent farmer Bills passed by the Union government are a step in the wrong direction. It's time we all stand for what's right. Together let's impress upon the Centre to pull back these Anti-Farmer bills, he tweeted.

Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal drove a tractor while his wife and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal sat beside him in the Muktsar district.

Sukhbir led a tractor march from his residence in Badal village to Lambi where the party had organized a protest against the Bills.

Prominent Punjabi singers, including Harbhajan Mann and Ranjit Bawa, took part in a farmers' protest in Nabha.

Farmers at several places in the state started gathering on roads to stop the movement of traffic.

Women protesters under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee took out a protest march in Amritsar.

In Barnala, a tractor was set on fire by protesters against the farm bills.

Punjab farmers blocked the Sangrur-Patiala, Chandigarh-Bathinda, and Ambala-Rajpura-Ludhiana and Moga-Ferozepur roads.

Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said farmers were getting support from traders, transporters, and taxi operators.

Meanwhile, Haryana farmers blocked the Rohtak-Jhajjar road.

Farmers held protests at several places, including Rewari and Yamunanagar.

Additional forces were deployed at Ambala and Panipat railway stations, officials said.

Several organizations in Haryana, including the BKU, have extended support to the nationwide strike called by some farmers' bodies.

Police personnel's inadequate strength was deployed across the state to maintain law and order, said officials.

The protesters have expressed apprehension that the Centre's farm reforms would pave a way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system and they will be at the "mercy" of big corporates.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill were passed by Parliament recently.

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