Rail blockades across Punjab by angry farmer bodies will continue as crucial talks between protesters and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal failed to yield any breakthrough here on Monday.
The high-powered meeting — that lasted for about four hours — was expected to put an end to the six-day ‘rail roko’ stir that has paralysed the train services across the state with over 450 trains being cancelled or diverted.
Unsure of the outcome of the negotiations between the Badal government and farmers, the railway authorities have decided to cancel or divert trains till October 13.
While Akali MP Prem Singh Chandumajra claimed the parleys resulted in several “positive outcomes” and he expected the farmers to call off their stir, protesting farmers said the ‘rail roko’ stir would continue.
“For the time being, the protest will continue. We will announce our next move by noon tomorrow in Bathinda,” Buta Singh Burjgill of BKU (Dakaunda) told HT.
Farmer bodies have decided to hold another meeting to decide their future course of action.
While none of the three main demands put forward by farmers was met, sources said the talks virtually broke down over 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 basmati growers, if any, can only come from the central government.
Regarding 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.
Farmer bodies were represented by 23 leaders, who were led by Sukhdev Singh Khokhri, Ruldu Singh Mansa and Burjgill.
Joginder Singh Ugrahan of BKU (Ugrahan), which is believed to be at the forefront of the agitation, stayed away from the meeting.
“I couldn’t attend the meeting due to personal reasons,” he said.
Sources, however, said leaving Ugrahan out was part of a strategy in case the government decided to swoop down on the leaders after the meeting. The government has, in a bid to curtail the agitation, already detained several hundred farmers in the past week.
Chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, additional chief secretary development Suresh Kumar, additional chief secretary revenue Karan Avtar Singh, principal secretary to CM SK Sandhu, director general of police Sumedh Singh, secretary power A Venu Prasad, secretary irrigation KS Pannu and CMD PSPCL KD Chaudhary, too, attended the meeting.
*Talks virtually broke down over procurement of basmati 1121 at a price demanded by farmers.
*Growers want procurement of the 1121 variety at Rs 5,000 per quintal.
*The CM told the delegation that basmati can’t be procured by the state government and relief for basmati growers, if any, can only come from the central government.
*On 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