Three-day 'rail roko' over farm bills hits freight, passenger operations

Topics Farmers protests | Agriculture | MSP

Farmers block a railway track at village, DeviDass Pura, about 20 km from Amritsar, Punjab, as part of a ‘rail roko andolan’ against the recently cleared farm Bills. Photo: PTI
Farmers in several parts of Punjab on Thursday started a three-day “rail roko” agitation against the Union government’s three agriculture sector Bills.

The Railways has cancelled at least 14 pairs of special trains running from the Ferozepur division from September 24 to 26, following the strike call. The decision was taken keeping in mind the safety of passengers and the protection of railway property, it indicated.

The agitation, being held under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Samiti and other farmer outfits, is also expected to affect freight traffic, which has seen some recovery in recent months.

“The Punjab rail agitation will severely impact the loading of food grains and other essential goods. It will hurt ordinary citizens and fast-recovering rail freight and economy,” said a railways official.

Punjab loaded 990 rakes in August and 816 rakes in the month of September so far. Besides, on average, 35 rakes of food grains are loaded by the state daily, according to the Food Corporation of India (FCI). It also loads daily nine to 10 rakes consisting of fertilizer, cement, auto and mixed goods in containers. In what may hurt the state economy, it receives 20 rakes daily of coal, food grain, farm products, machinery, petroleum products, and imported fertilizer.

Passenger trains that got cancelled include the Golden Temple Mail (Amritsar-Mumbai Central), Jan Shatabdi Express (Haridwar-Amritsar), New Delhi-Jammu Tawi (Rajdhani), and Karambhoomi  express (Amritsar-New Jalpaiguri).

Another farmer organisation, the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), representing 12 farmers' organisations based in UP, MP, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and Haryana, has called for a complete nationwide bandh on Friday.  

“We farmers have been demanding fair and remunerative prices for the past four decades. The BJP government made election promises of doubling farmers' incomes. Instead of fulfilling that promise, we are being slapped with these Bills designed to end the governments' responsibility to ensure a fair price to farmers. When seen in totality, these bills have nothing to do with improving farmers' incomes, over 80 per cent of whom are small and marginal farmers,” said Yudhvir Singh, national convener of the ICCFM.

Another farmers’ body, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), said it would also hold a nationwide protest if the minimum support price was not guaranteed, and crop price and food security of the poor were left to multi-nationals and corporate houses.

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