Farmers Saturday evening ended their three-day ‘rail roko’ stir that hit the movement of nearly 600 trains, including 376 that had to be cancelled and many others that were short terminated or diverted causing inconvenience to passengers in Punjab, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir.
According to Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Ferozepur division, the protest that began Thursday at 17 locations in Punjab before spreading to 20 in Punjab and in Haryana, affected the movement of 581 passenger trains and 17 goods trains. Of passenger trains, 376 were cancelled, 89 short terminated, 46 short originated, and 70 were diverted.
The railways refunded Rs 52.36 lakh to 10,788 passengers who had confirmed tickets but were forced to cancel the journey due to cancellation or short termination of trains.
The protest was spearheaded by the Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee ( KMSC) with the support of 18 farmer unions of North India.
The farmers have been demanding a Rs 50,000-crore flood relief package for north Indian states, a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for all crops as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report, and 200 days of employment under MGNREGA.
They are also demanding a waiver of the entire debt of farmers and labourers, and Rs 10 lakh and a government job as compensation to the kin of each farmer who died during the agitation against the now-repealed three farm laws.
On Saturday, farmers held the protest with empty earthen pitchers while raising slogans against the central government. They later broke the pitchers as a mark of protest on the tracks.
Sarwan Singh Pandher, the convenor of the coordination committee of 19 farmer unions, said, “The central government is entering into agreements with corporates and other countries to benefit them. This will lead to higher import of food grains, and more power to the corporate sector in agri sector. The farmers in India will eventually be left with these earthen pitchers in their hands”.
“The central government wants us to beg carrying these pitchers. We broke the pitchers to give a message to the Centre that we will oppose the corporatisation of agriculture sector,” Pandher added.
The farmers had blocked tracks at several places in Faridkot, Samrala, Moga, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Tarn Taran, Sangrur, Patiala, Ferozepur, Bathinda and Amritsar since Thursday. They also blocked the track at Ambala in Haryana.
The protest left thousands of rail passengers stranded or looking for other options to travel.
A passenger at Ludhiana station said he arrived from Jalandhar City by road to take a train to Gorakhpur but there is no information on when it will arrive. Another passenger at the station said the agitation forced the cancellation of a train from Amritsar in which 12 of his family members were supposed to travel to Bihar.
They later learned that the train would depart from Ludhiana and the family travelled from Amritsar by road. However, there is still no update about the train, he added.
“My son had to board a train for Bhopal but due to the farmers’ protest, we got him to board a train from Ambala. Farmers have the right to protest but common man shouldn’t be harassed,” said a Beas resident who didn’t wish to be named.
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A Ludhiana family had to go to Hazur Sahib but they had to cancel their trip because of the protest.
In Hoshiarpur, state president of Azad Kisan Committee Doaba, Harpal Singh Sangha, warned if their demand are not fulfilled by Dussehra, the farmers will burn “symbolic” effigies of the Centre and the corporates.
The farm bodies that participated in the protest include Bharti Kisan Union (Krantikari); BKU (Ekta Azaad); Azaad Kisan Committee, Doaba; BKU (Behramke); BKU (Shaheed Bhagat Singh) and the BKU (Chottu Ram).
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