Farm Bills: 'Rail Roko' stir in Punjab, Haryana; train services suspended

Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee continues their 'rail roko' agitation in Ferozepur, in protest against the farm bills | Photo: @ANI
Farmers in Punjab on Thursday began their three-day 'rail roko' agitation to protest against the three farm bills passed by both Houses of the Parliament. The Ferozepur Railway division has decided to suspend operation of special trains till September 26 in view of the safety of passengers, and protection of railway property from any damage. Railway authorities said 14 pairs of special trains would remain suspended for three days. The most vociferous protests were reported in Haryana and Punjab.

Among the trains which have been suspended are Golden Temple Mail (Amritsar-Mumbai Central), Jan Shatabdi Express (Haridwar-Amritsar), New Delhi-Jammu Tawi, Karambhoomi (Amritsar-New Jalpaiguri), Sachkhand Express (Nanded-Amritsar) and Shaheed Express (Amritsar-Jaynagar), PTI reported.

As many as 31 farmers' outfits have given a call for the complete shutdown of Punjab tomorrow in protest against the agriculture bills. Farmers have expressed apprehensions that the legislations will pave the way for dismantling the minimum support price (MSP) system, and they will be left at the mercy of big corporates.

The farmers' unions said the problem with the bills goes beyond MSP to the whole issue of phasing out of 'mandis' as farmers are far more vulnerable to exploitation outside the 'mandi' system and they are producers, not agri-businesses.

According to the Indian Railways, the 'rail roko' agitation in Punjab over farm bills will severely impact loading of foodgrains, and other essential goods as well as movement of passengers travelling on special trains, mostly on an urgent basis. 

Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee decided to hold three-day 'rail roko' agitation to lodge their protest against the three agriculture ordinances passed by the Union Cabinet, according to an ANI report.

Farmers under the banner of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee decided to squat on rail tracks near Devidaspur village in Amritsar and Basti Tanka wala in Ferozepur. The committee had also staged a protest in Amritsar earlier this week against ordinances.

"We have decided to hold a 'rail roko' agitation in the state against the farm bills," said Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher. Different farmer organisations in Punjab have already given a call for a bandh tomorrow in protest against the bills. Today, the Punjab Youth Congress is also organising a state-wide '8 Vaje 8 Minute Mashal March' to support the call for Punjab bandh by farmers agitating against the farm bills passed by the central government.

This comes after three ordinances were promulgated to usher in agricultural reforms for raising the income of the farmers and giving them more freedom to sell their produce. Besides Punjab, farmer protests have been witnessed in Telangana and Haryana.

Notably, the move has also caused a rift between allies Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has also opposed the ordinances. In opposition to the bills tabled by the NDA government, SAD leader and Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Union Cabinet on Thursday evening.

The farm bills will bring revolutionary changes in the lives of farmers as they can sell their produce to any buyer, get a guarantee of price of their crops, go for crop diversification, use new technology and reduce their input costs, said Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

हम नए कृषि बिल के माध्यम से फसल के करार की बात करते हैं। हमारा विधेयक खेत का कॉन्ट्रेट करने के लिए नहीं है। खेत का मालिक और उपज का मालिक किसान है। लेकिन नए विधेयक से अब किसान को बुआई से पूर्व ही फसल के मूल्य की गारंटी मिल सकेगी।#JaiKisan #MSPhaiAurRahega

— Narendra Singh Tomar (@nstomar) September 24, 2020
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 were passed by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday. They are awaiting the President's nod to become laws.

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