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Farmers agree to let trains run in Punjab

November 22, 2020 05:29 AM


Farmers agree to let trains run in Punjab
Breakthrough during meeting with Amarinder; unions have given 15 days’ time to the Centre to take a decision on withdrawal of new farm laws

Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh with representatives of farmer unions in Chandigarh on Saturday. HT PHOTO
Ravinder Vasudeva

Chandigarh : Punjab’s farmer unions announced on Saturday that they will completely lift their nearly two-month-long rail blockade against the Centre’s new agriculture laws from Monday, clearing the way for movement of goods and passenger trains to ply in the state.

However, the unions have given 15 days’ time to the Centre to take a decision on the withdrawal of the laws; if that doesn’t happen, they have threatened to restart the blockade.

The rail ministry, in a tweet, assured Punjab that it will work on restoration of rail services to the state at the earliest.

Saturday’s announcement came after chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh invited leaders of all 31 farmer unions to Chandigarh for talks to break the deadlock over resuming train services in Punjab.

“Had a fruitful meeting with Kisan Unions. Happy to share that starting from November 23, unions have decided to end rail blockades for 15 days. I welcome this step as it will restore normalcy to our economy. I urge the Centre to resume rail services to Punjab forthwith,” the chief minister tweeted soon after the meeting.

Amarinder urged the Centre to support his government in creating a congenial environment for ending the agitation, which he said had grave repercussions for the state.

Punjab farmers’ bodies initially said on Wednesday that they would consider allowing passenger trains to run in the state if the Centre started running the goods trains first. However, the railways refused, saying it would either operate both freight and passenger trains or none. The suspension of goods trains has hit supplies of fertilisers for the agriculture sector and coal for thermal power plants, besides adversely affecting industry.

The decision to lift the rail blockade was announced by Bharti Kissan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal at a meeting of representatives of the farmer unions with the chief minister to resolve the imbroglio. “If the Centre fails to address our issues and clarify its stand on withdrawal of bills within 15 days, we will again start our agitation,” he said.

Thanking the unions for accepting his request, the CM assured the farmer leaders that he would meet the Prime Minister and the Union home minister soon to press for their demands.

Singh also promised the farmer representatives that he would look into their other demands, including those related to a sugarcane price hike and clearance of dues, as well as withdrawal of FIRs registered in stubble burning cases.

Amritsar committee to continue blockade

The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), which is spearheading the ‘rail roko’ agitation in Amritsar for nearly two months, distanced itself from the decision of the 30 farmer unions to completely lift the rail blockade from Monday.

The committee leaders said they would not allow any passenger train to pass from the tracks in the district

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