Two of the biggest railway unions on Monday pledged their support to the Bharat Bandh on December 8 called by farmer unions which have been protesting on Delhi's borders against the Centre's new agri-marketing laws. The All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) and the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) extended their support to the agitating farmers by calling on their members to hold rallies and demonstrations on December 8 in a show of solidarity with the farmers.
AIRF general secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra met the agitating farmers at Singhu border and assured them that members of the railway union are with them in their fight against the new agriculture laws. We have written to our affiliates all over the Indian Railways to extend support to the farmers in their struggle to achieve their genuine demands, on December 8, 2020 during Bharat Bandh'. I have already advised AIRF affiliates to organise agitation programmes, dharna, demonstrations and rallies during lunch hour against anti-farmer policies of the Government of India.
I hope that the government will give cognizance to the genuine demands of the farmers and redress the same at the earliest, he said. NFIR general secretary M Raghavaiah, in a statement, appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept the demands of the farmers. He said the railway families are with the annadata (food-giving) in their struggle against the anti-farm laws which are detrimental to the farmer community of the nation.
The NFIR general secretary advised all its affiliate unions throughout the Indian Railways to conduct dharnas, rallies and demonstrations in solidarity with the farmers' struggle and against anti-farmer decisions of the central government, the statement said. The two unions comprising 13 lakh railway employees and around 20 lakh retired employees, according to the union leaders, are the latest to show solidarity with the agitating farmers.
Meanwhile, BSNL Employees Union on Monday said it fully supports the demand of farmers' organisations for repealing the farm laws. Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi against the new farm laws enacted in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
"BSNL Employees Union (BSNLEU) is fully supporting the demands of the farmers' organisations calling for the repealing of the Farm Acts, undemocratically passed in the last session of the Parliament," the union said in a statement. "BSNL Employees Union fully shares the apprehensions of the farmers' organisations, that the recently passed Farm Acts will take away the minimum support price being offered by the government," it added.
The farmers have found support from transport unions and the joint forum of trade unions like the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Opposition parties like the Congress, NCP, SP, INLD and the Left parties have also come out in support of the stir.
After five rounds of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions failed to end the impasse, the two sides are again set to meet on December 9, a day after the countrywide strike. The three farm laws enacted in September 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 (MSP) and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The Centre has repeatedly asserted that these mechanisms will remain.