Agitating farmer organisations in Punjab on Wednesday agreed to ease their indefinite rail blockade against Centre’s farm laws to allow goods trains to ply on the tracks. The move, which came after repeated appeals by the Punjab government and a day after the state Assembly passed Bills to negate central agri Acts, will help restore the supply line of coal, fertilisers and other goods in the state.
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh welcomed the announcement by farm outfits, calling it a move in the interest of state’s economy. The organisations, however, have refused to allow passenger train traffic through Punjab.
Sources said that while some farmer outfits were in favour of even allowing passenger train traffic, others opposed it during a meeting of farm organisations on Wednesday. In the end, it was decided that farmers will continue blocking passenger trains. After their own meeting in Chandigarh, farmers also met three ministers of the Punjab government — Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhbinder Sarkaria. The decision of easing the rail blockade was announced to the media after this meeting.
Farm outfits also gave an ultimatum to Centre to withdraw the controversial Acts within 15 days failing which they would be forced to intensify their agitation. They said they would shift the focus of their agitation to Delhi and gave a call for a complete nationwide bandh on November 5. All the trains would not be allowed to run on during the nationwide bandh.
Buta Singh Burjgill, president of BKU (Dakaunda) said that the dharnas at Reliance petrol pumps, toll plazas and gherao of BJP leader will continue in the coming days. He said the next strategy would be devised during a meeting of 300 organisations in Delhi on October 27.
Burjgill said the amendment Bills passed by Punjab government had a few issues but they were considering the passage as the victory of farmers organisations.
“We know neither the Punjab Governor nor the President would give their assent on these Bills. We will gherao the Governor if he does not do so. The agitation will now turn towards Centre.’
Cabinet Minister Randhawa told The Indian Express that the farmers had already taken a decision to ease the rail roko before the ministers met them.
“They were pleased with the Punjab government’s Bills. They said they know it is going to be a long battle with the Centre. But we told them that we are with the farmers and we are ready to be dismissed if the Centre decides to dismiss the government,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Reliance Petrol Pump owners had an argument with the agitating farmers during their meeting at Kisan Bhawan. Farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said that the Reliance group had deliberately let them loose on the farmers to dissipate their struggle.
Lift blockade on passenger trains too: CM
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had been repeatedly appealing to farm organisations to lift the rail roko in the interest of the state.
Thanking the farmer unions for heeding his appeal, the Chief Minister on Wednesday said the farmers had shown their love and concern for the people of Punjab with this move, as it will allow the state to get its much-needed coal supplies. He pointed out that the people of Punjab had been facing a total power shutdown as a result of coal shortage due to the blockade, and the decision of the unions had come as a major relief to them.
Amarinder said farmer organisations, with this decision, had also ensured that the industry would not have to suffer more but would get back on the path to revival. The rail roko of the farmers had caused huge financial losses to the industry, thus compounding the crisis triggered by the Covid pandemic.
Further, the easing of the blockade for goods trains will help the state replenish its critically low urea supplies, thus catering to the urgent need of the farming community for fertilisers, the CM pointed out.
“The farmers have not let down the state, and I would personally ensure that my government never lets them down,” said Captain Amarinder.
The Chief Minister, however, urged the unions to also lift the blockade on the passenger trains as well, which were catering to tens of thousands of Punjabis every day, especially during these festival times.
The people of Punjab want to come back home to celebrate the festival season with their families, he said.
He made it clear that his government would continue to support them in their fight against the central laws.
Ugrahan group holds separate meet
BKU (Ugrahan), meanwhile, had a separate meeting in Barnala. Leader of the farmer outfit, Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, said that they were studying the state’s Bills and would give their reaction after studying them and getting a reaction from the grassroots level.
“We are with the farmers organisations on their decision. But we did not attend their meeting because we did not have the invite,” said Kakorikalan.
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