Punjab farmers to continue stir as talks with Badal fail

Chandigarh, Oct 12 (IANS) The ongoing ‘rail roko’ agitation by Punjab farmers and farm labourers will continue, they announced on Monday as a meeting between their representatives and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and senior government functionaries failed to produce any result.

No conclusive breakthrough could be achieved as the government said it was not in a position to accept the demands of the 18 organisations of farmers anc farm hands, government sources said after the meeting that lasted over four hours in the evening.

Sources said that Punjab government refused to accept the demand of farmers for considerable enhancement in compensation for losses due to whitefly pest attack on cotton crop.

After the meeting with representatives of the coordination committee of 18 farmer and farm labour unions here, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, however, reiterated that the Akali Dal-BJP alliance government was committed to the welfare of farmers and farm labourers in the state.

Senior Akali Dal leader and parliament member Prem Singh Chandumajra also told the media that the meeting was held in a “positive atmosphere”.

On the other hand, farmer leaders who attended the meeting left for another venue to discuss among themselves the issues raised with Badal and state government functionaries.

“We will discuss the issues and let you know later,” farmer leader Sukhdev Singh Khokriwala told the media at Punjab Bhawan here after the meeting.

The ‘rail roko’ (railway blockade) agitation by farmers in Punjab continued for the sixth day on Monday as farmers blocked rail traffic at several places in Amritsar, Moga, Mansa and other districts.

Over 800 trains, including the Samjhauta Express peace train between India and Pakistan, have been cancelled or diverted by railway authorities due to the ongoing agitation by farmers.

Thousands of passengers have been left stranded due to cancellation of trains. The loss to the railways and other agencies is said to be over Rs.100 crore in these six days.

Agitating farmers are demanding compensation of Rs.40,000 per acre for loss of cotton crop due to whitefly pest attack, purchase of basmati rice at minimum support price, and immediate release of payments to sugar cane growers.

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