Punjab Farmers to Continue Blockade of Passenger Trains Until Demands Are Met, CM Says Decision `Unfortunate’


Punjab’s farmer unions on Wednesday decided against lifting the blockade of passenger trains, drawing criticism over the unyielding stand from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who has been sympathetic to their cause. After a meeting here, the farm bodies said they would consider allowing passengers trains to run in the state if the Centre starts running the goods trains first.

Supply of commodities like fertilisers and coal for power plants has been hit due to the weeks-long standoff between farmer unions and the Railways. The Railways has refused to resume goods trains, saying it would either operate both freight and passenger trains or none.

The farmers are protesting against the new agri-marketing laws enacted at the Centre, claiming that they would lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system. The Centre has adopted a stubborn attitude towards Punjab, its farmers, traders and labourers and we condemn the central government’s attitude, farm leader Ruldu Singh told reporters here.

He said it has been nearly a month since the farmer unions allowed the running of freight trains. He said once the Centre resumes freight trains the farmer bodies will hold an emergency meeting to discuss if they will allow passengers trains too to operate in the state.

The meeting here comes days after farmer bodies’ leaders met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash in Delhi. That meeting had remained inconclusive.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh expressed disappointment over the adamant refusal of the farmer unions to completely lift their rail blockade, saying it has brought the state virtually to a standstill for the past month and a half. In a statement, he called the farmer unions’ decision extremely unfortunate, saying their blockade of passenger trains was obstructing the movement of goods trains as well.

He said he had expected them to back down from their unyielding approach in the interest of Punjab, particularly in view of the state government’s absolute support for their cause. They should realise things could not continue like this ad infinitum, and if rail transportation continued to remain suspended any longer, the state would plunge into an irreversible crisis, he said.

He added that no government could afford such a situation. Industry has already suffered losses to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore so far, he said.

Industries in Ludhiana and Jalandhar alone has borne Rs 22,000 crore in losses. Over 13,500 containers are lying at Dhandari dry port, from where they could not be sent to other parts of the country. In the agriculture sector, 60,000 gunny bags are stuck in Delhi and Rajpura, impacting the lifting of paddy from grain markets, the CM said.

He said the suspension of train services has also prevented the supply of 40 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice from Punjab to Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh for the public distribution system, causing the central government to pick up grain from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Farm leader Ruldu Singh said lakhs of farmers will go to Delhi on tractors to take part in a protest on November 26 and 27 against the new farm laws.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a body of more than 200 farmer organisations across the country, has given a Delhi Chalo call. He said farmers have been holding protests outside the homes of several BJP leaders in the state.



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Author: Shirley

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