The farmer bodies in Punjab, which have been protesting the three farm laws passed in the monsoon session of Parliament, announced on Wednesday an easing of their three-week-long 'rail roko' agitation by allowing movement of goods trains in the state. The decision came a day after the Punjab Assembly passed Bills to counter the Centre's contentious farm laws.
Farmer leader Satnam Singh said the decision was taken keeping in mind the shortage of coal and diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizer. "We have decided to allow only goods trains from today till November 5," he said after a meeting of different farmers' organizations here.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh welcomed the decision by the farmers' organisations, saying it was in the interest of the state's economy and its revival. The Punjab government had been urging the protesting farmers to relax their 'rail roko' agitation while warning of a severe shortage of coal for thermal plants and fertilizers needed for wheat sowing.
Several industry bodies had also complained about not receiving their inputs due to farmers blocking the rail tracks in the state for an indefinite period from October 1. Farmers under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee had been squatting on rail tracks in Amritsar since September 24. Meanwhile, farmer leaders said they would continue to stage sit-ins outside fuel pumps of some corporate houses, at toll plazas and residences of several BJP leaders in the state.
"The next course of action will be announced in a meeting fixed for November 4," said Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakunda) general secretary Jagmohan Singh. Asked to comment about the Bills passed by the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal dubbed it a "big achievement" following the agitation.
"It has happened for the first time in the history that a special session of the Assembly was called and the Bills were passed just because of the pressure built by the farmers," he said, adding, "The entire state was united over this issue and this message has spread across the country." Another farmer leader said though there were "some shortcomings" in the Bills passed by the Punjab Assembly, they still were pro-farmer. The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday adopted a resolution rejecting the Centre's new farm laws and passed four bills which, it said, would counter the contentious legislation enacted by Parliament.
Commenting on the decision by farmers' organisation to ease the 'rail roko' stir, the chief minister said with this they have ensured that the industry would not suffer more and be able to get back on the path of revival. "The 'Rail Roko' by the farmers caused huge financial losses to the industry, thus compounding the crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic," the chief minister said in a statement.
He further said the lifting of the blockade for goods trains will help the state replenish its critically low urea supplies, thus catering to the urgent need of the farming community for fertilisers. Singh said the farmers have not let down the state and he would personally ensure that his government never lets them down. He reiterated his commitment to saving their livelihood and lives, both, he claimed "are facing acute danger as a result of the Centre's black farm laws".
Urging the unions to also lift the blockade of passenger trains, the chief minister said, "The people of Punjab want to come home for the festival season with their families." Singh made it clear that his government would continue to support the farmers in their fight against the three central laws. Meanwhile, a group of fuel pump owners barged into the press conference of farmers and raised slogans while demanding that their pumps should be allowed to resume operations. They said they had been facing heavy losses due to farmers' sit-ins outside their fuel pumps.
"We are facing heavy losses. We should be allowed to reopen our pumps," said R S Pathania a representative of the fuel pumps owners. He said that they have urged the farmers' bodies to consider their demand before their November 4 meeting. Krantikanti Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said that the farmers' bodies would soon call a meeting to consider the demand of fuel pump owners. He, however, slammed them for disrupting the press conference and said that they have apologised for their actions.