Farmers called off their week-long rail blockade across Punjab on Tuesday afternoon a day after talks with the Parkash Singh Badal government on their demands for higher compensation for cotton and paddy ended inconclusively.
The announcement to call off the agitation was made at Rampura in Bathinda district with farmer leaders emphasising that the decision to call off the rail roko agitation was taken in public interest and that their protest against the government would continue “in other forms”.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Sukhdev Singh Kokri, the general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), said that the decision was taken in view of the inconvenience being caused to the common man. “We will continue the fight for our demands but through different modes that will be decided in the coming days,” Kokri said.
The farmers have now planned to gherao (picket) Shiromani Akali Dal ministers and MLAs from October 22.
The farmers’ plan of action is expected to be announced at the rally, organised by eight farmer unions, that is underway at Rampura town of Bathinda district, the home turf of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The farmers had blocked the railway tracks in Bathinda, Mansa and Amritsar districts since October 7, leading to the cancellation of more than 700 trains under the Ambala and Ferozepur railway divisions. Unsure of the outcome of the negotiations between the Badal government and the farmers, the railway authorities decided to cancel and divert trains till Tuesday.
While none of the three main demands put forward by farmers was met, sources said the talks virtually broke down over the procurement of basmati 1121 at a price demanded by farmers. Growers want procurement of the 1121 variety at the rate of Rs 5,000 per quintal. The chief minister told the delegation that basmati can’t be procured by the state government and relief for growers, if any, could only come from the central government.
Regarding the demand of Rs 40,000 per acre compensation to whitefly-hit cotton cultivators, the state government said it had done its best to pay Rs 8,000 per acre to farmers. The government, however, agreed to pay Rs 800 per acre (10% of the compensation given to the cultivator) to farm labourers as well. The farmers are demanding a payment of Rs 20,000 per acre to labourers.
The farmer bodies were represented by 23 leaders, led by Sukhdev Singh Kokri, Ruldu Singh Mansa and Burjgill.