The nationwide strike, in protest against the three contentious farm laws, will be observed the entire day today, from 6 am till 6 pm
However, poll-bound states of West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, along with the UT of Puducherry will be excluded from the 'Bharat Bandh'
Farmer unions protesting against the Centre's three newly-enacted farm laws have called for a 'Bharat Bandh' (countrywide shutdown) today when their protest at Delhi's three borders -- Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri -- completes four months.
The nationwide strike called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in protest against the three contentious farm laws, said the 'Bharat Bandh' will be observed the entire day today, from 6 am till 6 pm.
"All shops, malls, markets and institutions will remain closed under complete Bharat Bandh. All minor and big roads and trains will be blocked. All services will remain suspended except for ambulance and other essential services. The effect of Bharat Bandh will be observed inside Delhi as well," SKM said in a statement.
"Farmers will block rail tracks in various places. Markets and transport services will be closed during 'Bharat Bandh'," Senior farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal told news agency PTI.
He said that however, emergency services like ambulance and fire will be allowed during the nationwide shutdown.
Odisha declares closure of educational institutes
The Odisha government has declared the closure of all educational institutions across the state today in view of the nationwide strike call given by farmers' unions protesting against the Centre's farm laws.
The Congress and Left parties have announced their support to the 12-hour bandh to be observed from 6 am.
The state's BJD government has asked its employees to reach offices by 9.30 am on Friday in view of the bandh. The front gates of the state secretariat Lok Seva Bhawan will be closed at 10:15 am and all the passage will be regulated through rear gates. Security checks of identity cards and passes of the employees and visitors will be intensified, the home department said.
In a notification, the government said that schools, colleges, universities and technical institutions will be closed on Friday in view of the bandh.
The Utkal University authorities announced the postponement of Plus III fifth semester exams of Arts/Science/Commerce streams scheduled to be held on Friday. The examinations will now be conducted on 30 March.
'Make Bharat Bandh a complete success'
The SKM, a front of protesting farmer unions, has appealed to the citizens of the country to make the 26 March 'Bharat Bandh' a complete success.
"We appeal to the people of the country to make this Bharat Bandh a success and honour their 'Annadata'," farmer leader Darshan Pal said.
The SKM has also appealed to protesting farmers to be peaceful and not get involved in any kind of illegitimate debate and conflict during the 'bandh'.
'Markets will remain open on 26 March'
Confederation of All India Traders, which claimed representation of eight crore traders in the country, said that markets will remain open on 26 March as it is not participating in the 'Bharat Bandh'.
"We are not going to participate in 'Bharat Bandh' tomorrow. Markets will remain open in Delhi and other parts of the country. The ongoing deadlock can be resolved only through dialogue process. There should be discussions on amendments in the farm laws that can make existing farming profitable," CAIT's national general secretary Praveen Khandelwal told PTI.
Farmers appeal to trader associations to close their shops
The statement issued by the SKM claimed that various farmers' organisations, trade unions, student organizations, bar associations, political parties and representatives of state governments have supported the bandh call of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha.
The trade unions from organised and unorganised sectors, and transport and other associations have extended their support for today's 'Bharat Bandh' call.
Farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar, who is also a senior member of Samkyukta Kisan Morcha, said that the major impact of the 'Bharat Bandh' will be felt in Haryana and Punjab.
Kohar said that farmers have appealed to trader associations to close their shops during the nationwide shutdown as the three new farm laws will also affect them indirectly.
SGPC offices to remain closed today
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), apex religious body of the Sikhs, has supported the Bharat Bandh call given for March 26 by the farmer unions and decided to close its offices on Friday.
SGPC president Jagir Kaur said that the offices of the SGPC would be kept closed in support of the call of Bharat Bandh.
"The SGPC is involved in the struggle of the farmers and would be a part of the Bharat Bandh on March 26," Kaur said.
YSRCP extends support to Bharat Bandh
The ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh has expressed solidarity to the Bharat Bandh on March 26 which is being observed to protest against the Centre's decision to privatise Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) and in support of the farmers' unions opposing the farm laws.
Andhra Pradesh I&PR Minister Perni Venkatramaiah appealed to the farmers' associations to cooperate and observe the bandh peacefully without any untoward incidents that cause inconvenience to the general public.
In regard to this, all the government institutions in the state will be open after 1.00 pm and RTC buses will operate in the afternoon. During the bandh, all the emergency health services will run as usual.
Farmers may have to enter Delhi: Rakesh Tikait
Ahead of today's Bharat Bandh, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Rakesh Tikait had said that farmers agitating against the Central farm laws would not be divided and they may have to go to the national capital and breach barricades again.
"They (Centre) has tried to divide us on the lines of caste and religion but they were unsuccessful. You would need to go to Delhi when asked and have to breach barricades again," Tikait said while addressing a gathering in Jaipur.
Apart from repealing of three farm laws, the demands of the protesting union include cancellation of all police cases against farmers, withdrawal of electricity bill and pollution bill and reduction in prices of diesel, petrol and gas.
Till now, there have been 11 rounds of talks between the protesting unions and government, but deadlock continued as both sides stuck to their stand.
In January, the government had offered to suspend the farm laws for 12-18 months, which was rejected by the farmer unions.
Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for the minimum support price on their crops.
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