Commuters had a tough time as farmers blocked roads and rail traffic here on Friday to protest the union government's decision of allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail and the state government increasing value added tax on petroleum products.
Worst hit was national highway-1, where commuters were stuck for three hours as farmers protested near Rayya. This in turn stalled traffic on the Amritsar-Delhi Road. Near Attari and Rajasansi too the movement of vehicles was affected.
Rail traffic was also disrupted, especially on the Amritsar-New Delhi route, as farmers sat on the rail tracks near Rayya. Several trains, including Shatabdi Express and Shan-e-Punjab, could not run from 1pm to 4pm due to the demonstration. Passengers had little choice but to keep waiting in the trains or get down and look for alternative means of transport to reach their destinations. Many walked along the tracks for a long distance.
Apart from FDI, the farmers were protesting the hike in petrol and diesel prices. "It was the duty of the Punjab government to reduce VAT so that people of the state get some relief in petroleum product prices," said the agitators.
"Until the state government changes its economic policies, our agitations will continue," farmers' leader Rattan Singh Randhawa said. "The common man is reeling under pressure. Increase in prices of petrol, diesel, cut in subsidy on LPG are some decisions that have drastically affected them."
"The Punjab government has no right to slam the Centre as the state is also contributing to our woes by imposing high VAT," Randhawa said. "The situation is such that people are even deprived of basic amenities in villages and to top it all inflation is giving them sleepless nights."
Criticising the UPA government at the Centre over FDI, the farmers' leader said: "Any company that invests in India will give profits a priority and not the needs of the common man. The union government is playing into the hands of big multinational companies and is hardly bothered about ordinary people."
The farmers demanded that the government waive electricity bills of landless farm labourers. They lashed out at the union government for not announcing compensation for Punjab, which had been hit by a drought-like situation.
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