Farmers at Singhu border during their protest against farm laws, in New Delhi on Saturday
Farmers at Singhu border during their protest against farm laws, in New Delhi on Saturday

Several opposition parties, including the Congress have announced support to the 'Bharat Bandh' call on December 8 by farmer unions against the new agri laws.

Farmer groups across the country are holding protests against the new laws with a massive sit-in on Delhi borders for the past 10 days.

After the fifth round of talks between the farmers and the central government failed to break the logjam, All India Kisan Federation president Prem Singh Bhangu said it will be an emphatic Bharat Bandh on December 8.

MSP will continue, can give it in writing: Centre

The Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Kailash Choudhary, reiterated the government stand that the MSP will continue. "We can give it in writing too. I think Congress government (in states) and Opposition are trying to instigate farmers. Nation's farmers are in favour of these laws but some political people are trying to add fuel to the fire," he said.

"I have faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership and farmers. I'm sure farmers will never make a decision that will cause unrest anywhere in the country. These laws have provided freedom to them. I don't think the real farmers, working in their farms, are bothered about it," he told ANI.

"I think farmers should think how this is being politicised and not get lured by the ones who are trying to score political benefits," Choudhary added.

Another round of talks fails to yield results

The Centre's offer to amend the contentious laws failed to cut ice with the farmer groups which insisted that it reply in "yes or no" to their key demand of repealing the legislation during the fifth round of talks on Saturday.

The Centre had now called a meeting on December 9.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, after the meeting, renewed his appeal to the farmers to end the stir and assured them that the Modi government remains committed to farmers' interests.

He requested farmer unions to send the elderly, women and children back to their homes from protest due to cold weather.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The Centre has repeatedly asserted that these mechanisms will remain.

Oppn announces support to 'Bharat Bandh'

The Congress, RJD, the TRS, the Trinamool Congress and the Left parties, besides a joint platform of ten central trade unions, announced their support to the countrywide strike, while DMK leader M K Stalin led the protests in Tamil Nadu.

"Congress has decided to support the Bharat Bandh on December 8. We will be demonstrating the same at our party offices. It will be a step strengthening Rahul Gandhi’s support to the farmers. We will ensure that the demonstration is successful," Congress Spokesperson Pawan Khera said on Sunday.

Telangana Chief Minister and TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao has also extended the party's total support to Bharat bandh called on December 8 by farmers. He said that the TRS rank and file would participate actively in the proposed bandh, his office said.

Earlier on saturday, the Congress had asked the prime minister not to test the patience of farmers.

"Pick your pen, apologise to 'anndata' and annul the black laws immediately," party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted with the hashtag of '8 December Bharat Bandh'.

The ruling TMC in West Bengal said it has decided to extend its "moral support" to the December 8 nationwide strike and would stage sit-ins in various areas for three days.

TMC MP Sudip Bandopadhyay said his party, during its protest programmes in Bengal, would seek immediate withdrawal of the farm laws and that the new bills be sent to the standing committee or select committee of Parliament after due deliberations with all stakeholders.

"Our leader CM Mamata Banerjee has pledged wholehearted support to the movement of farmers. We demand immediate withdrawal of the farm laws," he said in Kolkata.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc made the announcement in a joint statement.

"The Left parties extend their solidarity with and support to the ongoing massive agitation by Kisan organisations from all over the country against the new Agri laws. The Left parties extend their support to the call given by them for a Bharat Bandh on December 8," the statement said.

DMK president M K Stalin and senior party leaders held protests in different parts of Tamil Nadu in support of the agitating farmers and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold talks with them.

Stalin, Leader of Opposition in Tamil Nadu Assembly, led a demonstration in Salem.

The DMK chief questioned the "haste' in passing the laws during the COVID-19 pandemic and asked if the legislation had provisions for waiver of farm loans, fertiliser subsidy and minimum employment guarantee for farm labourers.

"None of these. That is why the farmers are opposing these and so are we," he said.

"Protests should continue till the three legislations are withdrawn. The prime minister should invite the farmers and hold talks with them," he added.

The BJP should immediately convene Parliament and repeal the laws."Till then, the DMK will stand by this protest," Stalin said.

In Patna, opposition parties led by RJD's Tejashwi Yadav were allowed to hold a brief protest against new farm laws at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Gandhi Maidan, where they pledged to support the agitating farmers.

"I am standing with the Anndata (providers of food) in their fight against the Dhandata (people who own wealth).

"Is it a crime to raise voice in support of farmers demanding provision for Minimum Support Price (MSP) in the newly enacted laws. If it is a crime, then we will commit such crime every time," Tejashwi said in a tweet.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist Liberation) said it had organised "road blockades" across Bihar during the day to protest against the farm laws, its state Secretary Kunal said.

The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress staged a protest in Jammu.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union activists held demonstrations at many places in Haryana and burned the effigies of the Union government.

Trade unions, sportspersons extend support

The joint forum of trade unions that has supported the farmers' stir includes Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC).

Several former sportspersons from Punjab including Padma Shri and Arjuna awardees left for Delhi to return their awards to President Ram Nath Kovind in support of the farmers' protest.

"If are not allotted a time to meet the president, we will place our awards outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday," said former hockey player Rajbir Kaur.

Other former sportspersons who are headed to the national capital are Dhyan Chand awardee hockey Olympian Gurmail Singh, Arjuna awardee Kabaddi player Hardeep Singh, and Arjuna awardee weightlifter Tara Singh.

(With PTI inputs)

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