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Punjab farmers refuse to end rail blockade

November 19, 2020 05:49 AM


Punjab farmers refuse to end rail blockade
Gurpreet Singh Nibber

Chandigarh : Punjab’s farmer unions on Wednesday decided against lifting the blockade on passenger trains, drawing criticism over their “unyielding” stance from chief minister Amarinder Singh who has otherwise been sympathetic to their cause.

After a meeting, the farm bodies said they would consider allowing passenger trains to run in the state if the Centre started running goods trains first. The decision came five days after a meeting with Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar (agriculture) and Piyush Goyal (railways) in Delhi. During the meeting, the farmer bodies were asked to move away from railway properties as a precondition for resumption of goods trains.

Though the farmer bodies’ meeting with the ministers was said to have been held in a conducive environment it failed to reach a fruitful conclusion. The farmer unions demanded that new central laws detrimental to farmers’ interests must be repealed.

In a statement, the chief minister called the farmer unions’ decision “extremely unfortunate”, saying their blockade of passenger trains was obstructing the movement of goods trains as well. He said he had expected them to back down from their “unyielding” approach, particularly in view of the state government’s absolute support for their cause. “They should realise things cannot continue like this ad infinitum, and if rail transportation continues to remain suspended any longer, the state will be plunged into an irreversible crisis,” he said.

On November 13, the unions had said they would take a call on allowing passenger trains on November 18.

“All farm bodies unanimously decided that the moment the Centre will allow passage of goods trains to Punjab, the farmer unions will allow passenger trains,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakounda). According to him, all aspects were discussed in the meeting but leaders of the farmer unions wanted the Centre to show a good gesture.

On September 24, farmer organisations had blocked trains, including freight carriers, against the new laws. On October 1, the unions again started a ‘rail roko’ (stop trains) movement for five days. They announced allowing passage of freight trains from October 6, but said passenger trains would continue to be blocked. The movement of freight trains was halted by the railway board on October 7 and the ban has been extended till November 19.

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