The Karnataka Bandh on Monday called by a clutch of farmers, labour, Left, pro-Kannada and Dalit organizations spearheaded by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and supported by the main opposition party Congress as well as others like SDPI evoked mixed response in the state.
Thousands of farmers marched in the state capital Bengaluru and around 300 of them were detained including KRRS leaders Kodihalli Chandrashekar and Kurburu Shanthkumar, Congress leaders including leader of opposition Siddaramaiah, KPCC President DK Shivakumar, national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala and other leaders who were protesting near the Congress office in the city.
The protesters were asking for the withdrawal of changes in the land reforms act – permitting non-agriculturists to buy farm land – and amendments in the APMC Act which now permits farmers to sell their produce to anybody of their choice. They are also demanding that changes made in the Essential Commodities Amendment Bill be withdrawn.
Siddaramaiah speaking at the protest said that the proposed changes were the ‘death knell’ to the farming community. “I challenge the CM to resign and let there be polls on these issues and we will see what the outcome will be,” he said. KPCC president DK Shivakumar demanded that the ‘three black laws’ be withdrawn or repealed. Later, a Congress delegation also submitted a memorandum to the Governor on this issue.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa addressing a press conference reiterated that the farm bills passed in the just concluded assembly session were in the interests of the farmers. “As a farmer’s son, I will never do anything against their interests. The Opposition is trying to misguide the farmers and it is a conspiracy. Even now anybody buying irrigated agricultural land cannot use it for any other purpose. They cannot buy land of SC/ST or small farmers.”
Yediyurappa also said that allowing farmers to sell their produce to anybody of their choice rather than only through APMC’s was an “achievement after a 25-30 year struggle”. Stating that he was open to discussion with farmer leaders he said results of the changes made could be seen in the next six months. The CM also said that he would tour the entire state to explain the benefits of the farm bills.
Across various districts too, several farmers, Congress, SDPI and Karnataka Rakshana Vedike activists were detained when they obstructed traffic including in Mysore, Hassan, Kodagu, Gulbarga and a few other places but later let off. The bandh evoked poor response in coastal and northern parts of the state which have been battered by heavy rainfall. Also bus and other essential services, commercial establishments, government and private offices functioned normally in most places across the state. Congress and farmer organisations though have said that they will continue the protests till their demands are met.