Punjab farmers’ stir hits rail traffic, commuters inconvenienced

Chandigarh, Oct 9 (IANS) Rail traffic was severely hit and thousands of commuters faced inconvenience as members of different farmer organisations held sit-ins on railway tracks in Punjab, as the agitation by farmers continued for the third day on Friday.

Railway officials said running of around 110 trains was affected due to the farmers’ stir. While some trains were stopped by farmers squatting on the tracks, some trains were cancelled by railway authorities and others diverted to various other routes.

The farmers blocked the Ludhiana-Ferozepur and the busy Amritsar-Jalandhar sections during the day.

On Thursday, the Samjhauta Express – the peace train between India and Pakistan – was not allowed to move by railway authorities from Attari and Delhi stations as farmers blocked rail tracks near Amritsar and other places.

The ‘rail roko’ agitation call has been given by eight farmer organisations, including factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, to protest against the “anti-farmer policies” of the Punjab government.

Talks between leaders of agitating farmers and government representatives this week failed to break the deadlock over their demands.

The farmers are particularly agitated over the government’s response to the whitefly attack on the cotton crop in the Malwa belt of Punjab, which damaged over 60 percent of the crop and caused losses of hundreds of crores of rupees to the growers.

Terming the protest “unfortunate”, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal appealed to the peasants to refrain from any 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 steps to safeguard the interests of farmers and will continue our endeavours to bail out the distressed farmers from this severe crisis,” Badal said on Thursday.

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

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