On Friday, ‘farmer protestors’ gave calls for ‘Bharat Bandh’ in Punjab and caused a loss of ₹500 crores in one day, reported Indian Express.
The protestors disrupted normalcy in both urban and rural areas of the State. They put up road blockades in 321 locations including link roads, State and National Highways. The ‘farmers’ staged demonstrations in a total of 365 places in Punjab. A total of 32 farmer unions protested at 200 places. While Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) created road and rail blockades in 16 districts of Punjab, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee followed it up in 12 other districts.
In urban areas such as Ludhiana, shopkeepers operated during the morning hours but closed shops afternoon. Amritsar observed a complete ‘bandh’ and the SGPC office remained shut to express solidarity with the protestors.
The protestors also conducted roadshows in Chaura Bazar, Ghumar Mandi, Mall road and Pakhowal road during the Bharat Bandh. They were also seen roaming in open jeeps and cars and intimidating shopkeepers to shut shops. Owing to the disruption caused during the Bharat Bandh, the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings estimated that Punjab lost around ₹500 crores in one day.
Protestors forcibly closed down commercial establishments
Pankaj Sharma, the General Secretary of the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings’ general secretary, informed, “The bandh affected business activities as the protesters did not allow workers and staff to reach factories. Protesters forcibly closed the commercial establishments.” He added, “Although industry supports the cause of protest and requests the govt to consider their legitimate demands, but industry condemns such bandhs as it affects the lives of common man.”
Party workers of Congress, AAP and SAD take part in protests
While speaking about the matter, Sharma further contended, “Such state-sponsored bandhs are like putting spanners in the wheels of the economy. There was a loss of business worth Rs 500 crores in Punjab due to a single- day bandh.” His statement further gained credence as general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan) Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan conceded that roads were jammed in 46 places and rail blockade was put in 4 places. Although party leaders did not participate, Congress, AAP, BSP and Shiromani Akali Dal workers were seen in protests in different parts of Punjab.
Anti-farm law protests cause hundreds of crores of loss to toll collections
The agitation against the historic farm laws, enacted by the Union government, will lead to an approximate loss of ₹600 crores in toll collection, reported credit rating agency ICRA Limited in January this year. In its report published, ICRA noted that the loss to toll plazas will be caused due to restrictions in vehicular movement on National Highways. “Around 52 toll plazas, including both public-funded and BOT (built, operate and transfer), for national highways are operated in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi-NCR which are directly or indirectly affected due to these protests,” it noted.
The report further added, “Until January 26, 2021, these national highway toll plazas would have incurred an estimated revenue loss of around ₹560 crores; out of which ~₹410 crores is estimated for BOT Concessionaires. Apart from this, the revenue loss in State Highway Projects in these regions would be additional.”
The revenue loss to toll plazas has furthered worsened since December 12 last year, due to no-fee collection from vehicles at all toll plazas in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi-NCR region. ICRA Limited reported that the average toll collection, prior to the protests and the subsequent free vehicular movement, was around ₹7 crores each day. The credit rating agency further estimated that even if the ‘farmer’ protests end by February, there will still be a decline of 30-35% in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi-NCR region for 2020-2021.