The Centre has asked all states and Union Territories to tighten security during Tuesday’s ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the farmers’ unions and supported by the Opposition parties while asserting that peace and tranquillity must be maintained on that day, officials said.

In a countrywide advisory, the Union Home Ministry also said the state governments and UT administrations must ensure that the Covid-19 guidelines issued concerning health and social distancing are strictly followed.

The states and UTs were told that peace and tranquillity must be maintained during the bandh and precautionary measures taken so that no untoward incident takes place anywhere in the country, a Home Ministry official said on Monday.

The ‘Bharat Bandh’ has been called by the farmers’ unions who have been protesting the three farm laws enacted in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. Major political parties, such as the Congress, NCP, DMK, SP, TRS and Left, on Sunday, came out in strong support of the bandh. Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi against the new farm laws.

Talks between the government and protesting farmers remained inconclusive on Saturday even after five rounds of discussions as union leaders stuck to their demand for the repeal of the new farm laws and went on a maun vrat seeking a clear ‘yes or no’ reply, forcing the Centre to call for another meeting on 9 December to resolve the deadlock.

The call for a “peaceful” nationwide shutdown on 8 December, a day ahead of the sixth round of talks between protesting farmers and the Centre, is meant to mount pressure on the government to repeal the three contentious agriculture reform laws.

“The protest is to show that we don’t support some of the policies of the government,” Bharatiya Kisan Union Spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said. Unions have said their protest is “peaceful and will continue that way.”

Farmers urged people to extend their support nonviolently and said their protest was not meant to “cause problems for the common man”.

“Tomorrow’s Bharat Bandh is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is a symbolic protest. We will begin at 11 a.m. so everyone can reach office on time… Services such as ambulance, even weddings, can go on. People can show their card and leave,” Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said.

Bank unions said they will not participate in the ‘Bharat Bandh’ even as they expressed solidarity with farmers protesting against the new farm laws. Similarly, All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said the union would not go on strike or abstain from work.

The BJP lashed out at the Opposition parties on Monday for coming out against the farm reforms enacted by the Narendra Modi government as it cited their earlier support to many provisions of the new laws to accuse them of “shameful double standards”.

Senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that a section of farmers has fallen in the grip of a few people with “vested interests” and asserted that the government was working to address their misgivings about the reforms, which have drawn strong protests from a section of cultivators.

~With inputs from other agencies~