BHUBANESWAR: Markets were shut and public transport stayed off the roads as the Bharat Bandh hit normal life in Odisha on Monday.
Supporters of the shutdown, including members of Congress and the Left parties, picketed at important junctions across the state amid rains, demanding repeal of the three farm laws.
Roads were blocked at different places in Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Bolangir, Rayagada and Subarnapur, among others.
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The protesters also blocked the railway lines at Bhubaneswar station, affecting train services in the state capital.
“We have received reports of agitations on railway track in different places. However, the protesters withdrew on their own after a few minutes. Train services are almost normal,” an official of the East Coast Railways said.
Government offices across the state witnessed thin attendance.
Though the government had earlier issued a notice, asking its employees to reach office by 9.30 am, many could not meet the deadline due to inclement weather conditions. Lok Seva Bhavan, Kharavela Bhavan and Rajiv Bhavan were guarded by security personnel to prevent the entry of any agitators, a senior official of the Home Department said.
As a precautionary measure, the front gates of the major government offices were closed by 10.15 am, he said.
The Odisha State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC) suspended bus service from 6 am to 3 pm in the wake of the bandh.
Private buses also remained off the roads. Educational institutions, which reopened following the lockdown, remained shut due to the bandh. Though markets were closed, shops selling essentials, including pharmacies and milk outlets, remained unaffected.
Several trade unions and bank employees’ unions were also backing the 12-hour bandh. However, it had no impact on the functioning of Paradip Port, Indian Oil Corp’s refinery and Nalco, among others, an official said.
Navaniman Krushak Sangathan state convenor Akshya Kumar said farmers across the country are angry as Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not pay any heed to their issues.
“Today’s bandh is symbolic. It will be further intensified till PM Modi withdraws the three farm laws,” said Sesadev Nanda, another leader of the outfit.
The three laws — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 — were passed by Parliament in September last year.
Farmer groups have alleged that these laws will end the ‘mandi’ and the MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced and asserted that these steps will help increase farmers’ income.