A large rally was organised in Bengaluru today against the two controversial farm bills passed – amid chaos and uproar – by the Rajya Sabha on Sunday.
The bills, which the government says will help small and marginal farmers get competitive prices for their produce – have been attacked by farmers and opposition leaders as “anti-farmer” and “anti-worker”.
Today’s rally – described by organisers as a united struggle by farmers, Dalits and workers – began at Bengaluru’s main railway station and went to the city’s Freedom Park – a regular protest venue – before ending in a public meeting.
Among those attending were veteran freedom fighter HN Doreswamy, Swaraj Abhiyan chief Yogendra Yadav, writer Devanoora Mahadeva and Justice HN Nagamohan Das.
Mr Yadav told NDTV the protest demonstrated that it wasn’t just farmers in Punjab and Haryana who were angry.
“Farmers across the country are angry. The Prime Minister says only the opposition, including the Congress, is sponsoring the protests. Show me which Congress member is here. They (the government) say all the protesters are middlemen. Tell me if you find a single middleman here,” he declared.
“The fact is – the farmers are against it (the bills) and while the government claims it is pro-farmer, no farmers’ organisation was consulted. Even the RSS-led farmer group is against it,” he added.
Mr Yadav said farmers across the country were standing up to be counted.
“An all-India bandh call has been given for September 25. We will see a protest against the attempt to turn Indian agriculture into company raj,” he said.
Leaders in the BJP state government have praised the new bills – which Prime Minister Narendra Modi today (and yesterday) called “historic” as he attempts to convince protesting farmers of the bills’ benefits.
Opposition leaders in the state, however, are critical.
“An NDA minister has resigned on this issue. What more do you want? There is no unanimity in your government. How can there be unanimity in the country? We are going to oppose it,” DK Shivakumar, Karnataka Congress chief said.
Mr Shivakumar was referring to Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who resigned last week after what she said was failure on her part to convince the central government of the seriousness of this issue.
Speaking to NDTV Mrs Badal said she had repeatedly asked the central government to listen to farmers‘ concerns and hold discussions with them before tabling the bills in parliament.