Farmers ease ‘rail roko’ protest in Punjab
“We have decided to allow only goods trains from today (Wednesday) till November 5,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) after meeting of 30 farmers’ organisations in Chandigarh.Updated: Oct 22, 2020, 07:34 IST
Farmers’ bodies in Punjab eased their three-week-long “rail roko” agitation by allowing the passage of goods trains in the state on Wednesday, a day after the assembly passed four bills and a resolution to counter the three controversial farm legislations enacted by the Centre last month.
“We have decided to allow only goods trains from today (Wednesday) till November 5,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) after meeting of 30 farmers’ organisations in Chandigarh.
Chief minister Amarinder Singh welcomed the decision, saying it was in the interest of the state’s economy and its revival. He said the farmers had shown their concern for the people of Punjab.
However, farmers, who have been protesting against the Centre’s farm reforms laws since September 24, said passenger trains would not be allowed and their representatives would keep vigil at railway stations.
Patiala said the protest outside the premises of state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and the gherao of business establishments of some corporate houses would continue until November 5. “The next course of action will be announced in a meeting fixed for November 4,” he added.
Commenting on the four bills passed by the assembly, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal said it was a “big achievement” in the farmers’ agitation.
“It has happened for the first time that a special session of the assembly was called and the bills were passed under pressure from farmers. It has marked a beginning of big political movement and it could spread to other states also,” he added. Rajewal said farmers’ bodies are prepared for a long haul.
The Punjab version of the central legislation is aimed at addressing the concerns of farmers and may be adopted by other non-National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-ruled states, including a provision to protect the MSPs that government procurement agencies pay for farmers’ produce.
Big farmers’ groups, particularly in Punjab and Haryana, say the Centre’s farm reforms could pave the way for the dismantling of the system of MSPs and that deregulation will leave them vulnerable to powerful agribusinesses and in an even weaker negotiating position than before.
The Centre’s ruling BJP says the fears are unfounded and the three laws will usher in much-needed reforms in the agriculture sector.