Even as the ‘rail roko’ agitation by various farmer bodies of Punjab entered its third day on Friday, another bid by the state government to negotiate with the protesting farmers hit a roadblock.
The farmers, agitating jointly under the banner of eight organisations, are squatting on railway tracks at various places in Bathinda and Amritsar, leading to the cancellation of almost 250 trains in the past three days, besides causing a loss of Rs 10 crore to the railways.
The state government approached the farmer leaders unofficially through the Akali member of Parliament (MP) from Anandpur Sahib, Prem Singh Chandumajra, to break the deadlock. While Chandumajra offered the leaders a meeting with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal at the earliest, the rider was that the agitation be called off before the meeting. However, farmer leaders are insisting on meeting the chief minister while the agitation is going on, so as to keep the option of continuing with the stir open in case talks with the CM do not bear favourable results for them.
The leaders of the agitation are meeting on Saturday afternoon at an undisclosed destination to work out their future strategy. The government, which issued advertisements in newspapers on Friday urging farmers to call off the agitation, is also expected to make a fresh move to make the leaders see reason.
The agitation, extended till Saturday, has derailed train services in Punjab, inconveniencing thousands of travellers. In the past three days, 248 trains were cancelled and 24 express trains diverted, according to railway officials who tentatively pegged their losses at Rs 10 crore.
Meanwhile, the state government is working overtime, monitoring on a daily basis the implementation of demands accepted by the government during a meeting of these leaders with chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal on October 3.
Farmers’ demands government has said no to:
Payment of Rs 40000 per acre compensation to farmers for the loss to cotton crop
Payment of Rs 20,000 per acre compensation to farm labourers
Procurement prices of Rs 4,500 per quintal for 1509 basmati variety and Rs 5,000 for 1121 variety
Farmers’ demands government has partially/fully met:
Procurement of 1509 basmati variety at Rs 1,450 per quintal as MSP
Immediate disbursal of compensation of Rs 3 lakh for farmer suicides
Payment of compensation to actual cultivator who suffered crop losses and not the landowner through committees under village sarpanch
Inclusion of vegetables and fruits in the list of crops liable for compensation
Raising loan of Rs 134 crore to clear payments to sugarcane growers
Of total pending amount of Rs 206 crore to cane growers, Rs 72 crore paid