Chandigarh: The crucial talks between protesting farmers and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to break the deadlock over peasants’ demands will be held here today even as rail services remained hit for the sixth consecutive day today, causing inconvenience to passengers.
On the invitation of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), representatives of eight farmer outfits spearheading the ‘Rail Roko’ agitation since October 7 will be meeting Badal here in the evening to discuss their demands which include higher compensation for cotton crop loss. Protesting farmers, who have described their agitation as “do-or-die battle” for them, have rejected the appeal of Badal to call off the protest till their meeting is held with the CM.
Up in arms against the SAD-BJP led state government for “anti-farmers” policies, farmers have decided to announce their next line of action after holding talks with Badal. “We would like to see what results come out in the meeting with the Punjab CM before taking any call on our Rail Roko agitation,” Buta Singh Burjwala, President, BKU (Dakunda) said. Farmers in large numbers have been squatting on railway tracks at Mansa, Rampura, Shergarh, Pathrala (Bathinda), Dagru (Moga), and Mucchal (Amritsar), badly disrupting rail services at tracks including Ludhiana-Ferozepur, Ludhiana-Amritsar, Bathinda-Ambala, Ambala-Ferozepur.
The ongoing farmers’ agitation, which had been described as the “worst-ever” protest to hit train movement in Punjab, has so far hit 469 trains in Ferozepur division in the six-day long protest. Among 469 trains, 243 trains (109 mail/express and 134 passengers) have been cancelled while rest of them were diverted, short terminated and short originated, railway authorities said today. Movement of as many as 84 trains was adversely impacted today, railway officials said adding that among them, 50 have been cancelled. Prominent trains which stand cancelled today are Samjhauta Express –Delhi-Attari Express (14001), Attari-Delhi (14002), Attari-Lahore (14607), Lahore-Attari (14608), Shan-e-Punjab, railway officials said.
Of those which have been diverted are Tata Nagar-Jammu Tawi, Amritsar-New Delhi Shatabdi, Amritsar-Haridwar Jan Shatabadi, Amritsar- Mumbai, Delhi-Pathankot, Mumbai CST-Amritsar, Golden Temple mail, Amritsar-Howrah and Saryu Yamuna Express. Railways have also announced cancellation of five trains including Gorakhpur-Amritsar Jansadharan Express, Amritsar-Chandigarh express, and short originated one train (Akal Takht express) for October 13 in the wake of farmers’ protest.
With talks between farmers and Punjab CM slated today, railway authorities are pinning hopes on the crucial meeting which might pay way for lifting of blockade. With state authorities having “failed” in preventing farmers from blocking trains, railways have warned of getting cases registered against protesting farmers under Railways Act. As many as eight farmers’ organizations, including BKU Ekta (Dakunda), BKU Ekta (Ugrahan), BKU (Krantikari), Kirti Kisan Union, are participating in the ‘Rail Roko’ agitation which began on October 7.
Initially, the agitation was for two days – October 7 and 8 but it was extended for two days till October 10, and extended for another two days till October 12. Agitating farmers have blamed SAD-BJP led state government for its “apathetic” attitude towards farmers’ genuine grievances. They have been demanding Rs 40,000 per acre compensation for farmers whose crop got damaged by the whitefly attack, Rs 20,000 per family compensation for farm labourers, Rs 4,500 per quintal rate for Basmati PUSA 1509 variety, Rs 5,000 per quintal for Basmati PUSA 1121, and debt waiver. Besides, they are also seeking payments of sugarcane dues by private mills, debt relief and Rs 5 lakh financial assistance to the family of farmers who commit suicide.