Farmers in large numbers squatted on rail tracks in parts of Punjab on Friday, while another group of cultivators blocked the Chandigarh-Ambala national highway as part of their stir to demand a financial package for losses incurred in floods, a legal guarantee to MSP and a sweeping debt waiver.
As part of the three-day ‘rail roko’ protest, farmers squatted on the Amritsar-Delhi railway track in Devidas Pura, while in Hoshiarpur, members of the Azad Kisan Committee, Doaba, sat on dharna at the local railway station.
According to railway officials, while some trains were cancelled, routes of several trains have been diverted. Some trains are being short-terminated in view of the agitation.
The stir is underway at 17 places in Punjab, including in Moga, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Tarn Taran, Sangrur, Patiala, Ferozepur, Bathinda, and Amritsar.
A group of farmers owing allegiance to BKU (Sidhupur) also squatted on the Chandigarh-Ambala national highway near Lalru in Punjab. Farmers have also parked their tractors alongside the highway.
A Punjab Police official said both sides of the highway have been blocked and traffic has been diverted through alternate routes.
State President of the Azad Kisan Committee, Doaba, Harpal Singh Sangha, said their agitation will continue till September 30. If the demands are not met by that time, the next course of action will be decided, he said.
The stir has left many rail passengers stranded in Punjab and Haryana.”The matter is between the Centre and the farmers. Why should passengers face harassment. Since yesterday, we have been waiting at the railway station, but there is no surety when our train will come,” said an elderly passenger at the Ludhiana railway station who was travelling to Patna.
On Thursday night, hundreds of railway passengers travelling to various destinations, including Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, were stranded at the Ambala Cantonment Railway Station in Haryana as rail movement was hit in neighbouring Punjab due to the protest.
Several farmer groups, including the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Bharti Kisan Union (Krantikari), BKU (Ekta Azaad), Azaad Kisan Committee Doaba, BKU (Behramke), BKU (Shaheed Bhagat Singh), and BKU (Chottu Ram), are participating in the protest.
Their demands include a financial package for the flood-affected people in north India, a legal guarantee for minimum support price on all crops, and a debt waiver for farmers.
Farmers want a Rs 50,000-crore flood relief package for north Indian states and MSP as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report, farmer leader Gurbachan Singh had said in Amritsar on Thursday. He demanded waiver of the entire debt of farmers and labourers, and Rs 10 lakh and a government job in compensation to the kin of each farmer who died during the agitation against the now-repealed three farm laws.