Thousands of farmers across BJP-ruled Karnataka joined the countrywide protest against the new farm laws this morning. Their other grouse was against changes to the land acquisition act -- which makes it easier for non-farmers to buy agricultural land -- and amendments to the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committees) Act, which lists rules for procuring farm produce.
Protests were held in several cities, including state capital Bengaluru. By noon, hundreds of farmers were seen holding demonstrations outside the Town Hall. Others blocked roads in parts of the city till they were told to move by the police.
"They are lying to farmers. Narendra Modi is a liar and to bring what he says into practice in this state, Yediyurappa is also repeating the lie. This is all against farmers," said K Chandrashekhar, the chief of Farmer's Federation of Karnataka.
The statewide strike they called though, was not a success. Keen to ensure that the situation remains normal, the state government had ensured strict security on roads and the availability of transport.
"One thing is very clear, both Narendra Modi and BS Yediyurappa are harmful for agriculture," said Randeep Surjewala of the Congress, which is supporting the farmers protest and the strike.
"The farmers are agitating. This anti-farmer, anti-farm labour government continues to diabolically suppress and stifle the voice of the farmer. We stand united with the farmer until the land reform bill and the APMC Act are withdrawn, our struggle will continue," he added.
On Saturday, Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar had firmly opposed the proposed amendments and hit out at the ruling BJP, saying they want to keep the farmers as "slaves".
"Entire lands of the farmers have been taken. It is a very bad amendment that they have brought. They have brought amendments to buy lands from the farmers. They want to keep the farmers as slaves so we are opposing this tooth and nail," Mr Shivakumar had told NDTV.
The BJP has blamed the unrest on the Congress. "Because of farmers' support I am sitting in this seat today," said Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.
"Farmers are very educated now. They know what to do, what not to do… I will go around the state and meet all the farmers who do not trust the new laws and explain the issue to them," he added.
The BJP has said the three farm sector laws -- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill – are "historic reforms" that would help farmers get better price for their produce. They also blame the Congress, claiming that the party is brainwashing farmers to keep their own interests intact.
Farmers and the opposition claim the new laws -- which enable them to sell produce to corporates anywhere in the country -- lays them open to exploitation by big companies. They also say with the entry of private players into the agricultural sector, they will not get even the Minimum Support Price for their produce.