Over 200 farmer unions from across 22 states on Tuesday decided to block state and national highways as part of a chakka jam protest on November 5, and follow it up with a Delhi Chalo march on November 26-27. As representatives of farm outfits met at Delhi’s Raqab Ganj gurdwara on Tuesday under the banner of All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination committee (AIKSCC), they also formed a 5-member coordination committee to manage the November protests. 60 representatives of 28 unions from Punjab also attended the meeting.
The coordination panel includes AIKSCC national president VM Singh, farmer leader from Punjab, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Gurnam Singh from Haryana, Raju Shetty and Yogendra Yadav.
“Protest against farm laws is not only happening in Punjab and Haryana but in 22 states of India, this movement which started from Punjab has now become a national movement and this is the reason that now nationwide protests will be done,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, working committee member of AIKSCC.
Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU(Ugrahan), said,”Our union participated in this meeting as a spectator, we will coordinate with all the programmes given in this meeting as the motive of all unions is one and hence this will help us stay united.”
“Suspension of goods trains by Centre in Punjab is a vendetta politics which normally is not seen from a government’s end as they are supposed to resolve the issues rather than do revengeful politics. Farmers have no issues over goods trains running in Punjab, but Centre government has given orders to Railways to stop these trains so as to create a divide between traders, businessmen and farmers. We have vacated the tracks for goods trains but are not allowing passenger trains to run on these tracks. However, the business community is being made to think that the farmer is responsible for this. We appeal to business communities to support us and they can always be in touch with us to get to know the truth,” said Jagmohan Singh.
Meanwhile, a farmers’ dharna is still going on at Jandiala Guru railway station in Amritsar district and even at nearly 30 locations where farmers were earlier sitting on tracks. Now, they are sitting at railway platforms or near those platforms so as to oversee as whether any passenger train is running on tracks or not. Reacting to this, Rajesh Aggarwal, Divisional Railways Manager (DRM), Ferozepur division stated that they cannot function in this situation of uncertainty and hence operation of goods trains has been stopped in Punjab till October 29.
Balbir Singh Rajewal said, “On the lines of Punjab, now protest against BJP leaders, corporate houses will happen in other states as well. Farmers will be sitting at toll plazas, petrol pumps, malls etc in other states as well. All farmer unions have condemned the Centre’s role over stopping goods trains to operate in Punjab. In the past, even after major rail accidents, train services used to be resumed on other tracks within no time and hence, now they are just trying to defame farmers but in fact are themselves being defamed.”
Protests are also continuing at over 80 other places in Punjab which include private petrol pumps, private telephone exchanges, toll plazas, slios, shopping malls, and outside the houses of BJP leaders. Farmers did not deny that the wheat sowing season will get delayed if fertilizers do not reach in time in Punjab via goods trains.
Speaking about burning of effigies of PM Narendra Modi, farmer leader Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan said,” I am surprised at BJP leaders who say that people protesting on roads are Congressmen and not farmers. Now they are saying that Congress workers have burnt effigies of PM, corporates on Dussehra. But I want to tell BJP leaders that protest against farm laws has become a people’s movement. Hence, I want to tell them again that we burnt those effigies, common man burnt those effigies. BJP leaders should stop giving political colours to a mass movement. They have lost their ground completely in Punjab. It is sad that instead of becoming our voice, they are talking against us.”
Trains never stopped even during terrorism days: Industry
Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU) was held in Ludhiana in which industrialists decided to study legal options so as to challenge this stoppage of goods trains by centre government in Punjab.
“Even during terrorism days, trains were operated normally in Punjab. Farmers struggle is happening in many other states of India as well, but goods trains are running in other states barring Punjab. Hence, farmer unions, Centre as well as state government should sort out their issues and let goods trains run smoothly in Punjab because factories are facing shortage of steel, other raw material, moreover exporters are not able to run the factories and even have no funds to pay wages in the coming month when Diwali festival is celebrated,” said Upkar Singh President of CICU.
“All inland container depots (ICDs) are closed in Punjab due to non-movement of trains and if goods are sent by road till ports, it will increase cost manifold, exporters are not even able to meet their deadlines,” added Pankaj Sharma, general secretary of CICU. Upkar Singh said, “We are studying legal options as goods trains cannot be stopped, all the stakeholders must sort out their issues at the earliest or we may approach the court as well. Our delegation will meet the CM of Punjab and senior ministers and will ask them to get the tracks cleared as early as possible so that industry can work smoothly.”