Punjab farmers’ agitation: Samjhauta, several other trains affected

Chandigarh, Oct 8 (IANS) Thousands of passengers faced a harrowing time as the Samjhauta Express (link train) and several other trains across Punjab were stopped, cancelled or diverted on Thursday as agitating farmers intensified their agitation against the state government on the second day.

The agitating farmers’ organizations announced that their protests will continue for the next two days also.

Sources in the railways said that at least 113 trains were affected across Punjab, with 67 being cancelled and 23 others being diverted. Others were stopped by the agitating farmers at various locations.

The Samjhauta Express, the peace train between India and Pakistan, which ferries passengers from India and Pakistan, was not allowed to move by railway authorities from Attari and Delhi stations as farmers had blocked railway tracks near Amritsar and other places.

The ‘rail roko’ agitation call was given by eight farmers’ organisations, including various factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), to protest against the “anti-farmer policies” of the Punjab government.

The farmers are particularly agitated with the Parkash Singh Badal government’s response to the white-fly attack on the cotton crop in the Malwa belt which led to over 60 percent of the crop being damaged and losses of farmers running into hundreds of crores.

Protesting farmers have blocked two main railway lines, the Ludhiana-Ferozepur and Amritsar-Jalandhar sections.

The blockade on the Amritsar-Jalandhar section has affected trains on the busy Delhi-Amritsar sections.

Terming the protest by the farmers as “unfortunate”, Chief Minister Badal appealed to the peasants to refrain from initiating any sort of action that caused unnecessary harassment to the common people.

“Some of the demands made by the farmers are unrealistic due to which the state government is helpless in accepting these. We have already taken several steps for safeguarding the interests of farmers and will continue our endeavours to bail the distressed farmers out of severe crisis,” he said.

Thousands of passengers in Punjab were hit hard on Wednesday as several trains were stopped by protesting farmers on the first day of the agitation.

The agitating farmers are demanding compensation of at least Rs.40,000 per acre for cotton crop loss, immediate release of money of sugarcane growers and higher support price for Basmati rice.

Badal had last week announced compensation of Rs.600 crore to the farmers whose crop was damaged by the white-fly attack.

Punjab’s agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu was arrested on Monday on charges of cheating and corruption for his alleged role in the purchase of spurious and poor quality pesticide to counter the white-fly attack.

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