Punjab farmers to continue stir till today

Chandigarh: The six-day-old ‘rail-roko’ agitation by Punjab farmers will continue till Tuesday, the union leaders announced on Monday night after talks with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal who offered some compensation and promised to take up their demands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We will carry on with our agitation till tomorrow (Tuesday),” said BKU Ekta (Dakunda) general secretary Jagmohan Singh, who was part of the representatives of 12 farmers’ outfits who took part in the three-and-a-half hour meeting with the CM here to find an end to the strike which has paralysed the train services.

Singh stated this just before the meeting of farmers groups to decide the next line of action on the basis of the parleys held with Badal.

Asked whether any offer was made by Badal, Singh said government has offered to pay Rs 64 crore compensation for farm labourers but no assurance was given with regard to raising compensation component on cotton crop loss by pest attack and higher rates for basmati rice prices.

“The state government is not ready to pay more than Rs 8,000 per acre on crop loss. The government is also not giving any assurance on giving higher rates for PUSA basmati 1121 price,” the union leader said.

At the same time, he said Badal assured them that he would take up their demands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The unions have been demanding Rs 40,000 per acre compensation for farmers whose crop got damaged by whitefly attack, Rs 20,000 per family compensation for farm labourers, Rs 4,500 per quintal rate for Basmati PUSA 1509 variety, Rs 5,000 per quintal for Basmati PUSA 1121.

Besides, they are also seeking payments of sugarcane dues by private mills, debt relief and Rs 5 lakh financial assistance to the family of farmers who commit suicide.
On the issue of debt waiver, Singh said Badal assured them that he would take up the matter with RBI. “Badal said for loans regarding cooperative sector, a policy will be framed,” Singh said.

To check exploitation by commission agents (Arthiyas), Singh said the state government would come out with a Money Lending Act in this regard. SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra, who was also in the meeting said, “the meeting with farmers held in a very cordial atmosphere. We expect positive response from their side.”

He said both sides “understood each other’s limitations. We discussed each and every point of farmers. They told us that they will announce their next line of action after holding their meeting. We hope that they will call off their agitation.”

The farmers’ agitation, which began on October 7, has paralysed rail movement in Punjab. It has affected the movement of 1077 trains in both Ambala and Ferozepur divisions of railway, besides causing heavy financial loss, officials said here.

In Ferozepur division, 500 trains were so far affected while in Ambala division 577 trains were hit.

Among 500 trains, 255 trains including mail/express have been cancelled while rest of them were diverted, short terminated and short originated, railway authorities said.

In Ambala division, among 577 trains, 292 trains have been cancelled so far due to agitation.

Movement of as many as 121 trains was adversely impacted today in Ferozepur divsion, railway officials said adding that among them, 62 have been cancelled.
Prominent among trains which stand cancelled today are Samjhauta Express –Delhi-Attari Express (14001), Attari-Delhi (14002), Attari-Lahore (14607), Lahore-Attari (14608), Shan-e-Punjab, railway officials said.

Of those which have been diverted are Tata Nagar-Jammu Tawi, Amritsar-New Delhi Shatabdi, Amritsar-Haridwar Jan Shatabadi, Amritsar- Mumbai, Delhi-Pathankot, Mumbai CST-Amritsar, Golden Temple mail, Amritsar-Howrah and Saryu Yamuna express.

Railway authorities have also announced to cancel trains including Gorakhpur-Amritsar Jansadharan Express, Amritsar-Chandigarh express, for October 13 in the wake of farmers’ protest.

Farmers’ organisations along with farm labour outfits, including BKU Ekta (Dakunda), BKU Ekta (Ugrahan), BKU (Krantikari), Kirti Kisan Union, are participating in the ‘Rail Roko’ agitation which began on October 7.

Initially, the agitation was for two days – October 7 and 8 but it was extended for two days till October 10, and extended for another two days till October 12.

Agitating farmers have blamed SAD-BJP led state government for its “apathetic” attitude towards farmers’ genuine grievances.