Punjab farmers' stir: trains affected, Chandigarh-Ambala NH blocked
Railway officials said while some trains were cancelled, routes of several others were diverted. Some trains are being short-terminated owing to the agitation
Farmers squatted on railway tracks on Friday on the second day of their three-day 'rail roko' agitation and also blocked the Chandigarh-Ambala-Delhi national highway for seven hours, demanding compensation for crops damaged in the recent floods, a legal guarantee on MSP, and a sweeping debt waiver.
Farmers taking part in the 'rail roko' agitation squatted on the Amritsar-Delhi railway track in Devidas Pura while in Hoshiarpur, members of the Azad Kisan Committee, Doaba, sat on a dharna at the local railway station.
Railway officials said while some trains were cancelled, routes of several others were diverted. Some trains are being short-terminated due to the agitation. Officials added that 91 trains in the Ferozepur division were cancelled, 48 short-terminated, five short-originated and 35 diverted.
They said 179 passenger and 14 goods trains have also been impacted and the railways has set up helpdesks in stations for passengers.
Farmer leaders said the stir is underway in 20 places in Punjab, including Faridkot, Samrala, Moga, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Tarn Taran, Sangrur, Patiala, Ferozepur, Bathinda and Amritsar.
After a meeting later in the day, it was decided that farmers in Haryana would also lend support and join the protest by squatting on railway tracks in Ambala on Saturday, they said.
A group of farmers owing allegiance to the Bharti Kisan Union (Sidhupur) squatted on the Chandigarh-Ambala-Delhi national highway near Lalru in Punjab. The farmers also parked their tractors along the highway.
The protesters were seeking adequate compensation for the crop lost in the recent floods and heavy rain, besides some other demands.
They lifted the blockade after seven hours following an assurance by district administration authorities.
A Punjab Police official said both sides of the highway were blocked during the day and traffic diverted through alternative routes.
Harpal Singh Sangha, state chief of the Azad Kisan Committee, Doaba, said the agitation will continue into Saturday. 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 (Thursday), we have been waiting at the station but there is no surety when our train will arrive," said an elderly passenger waiting to travel to Patna at Ludhiana railway station.
Another passenger in Ludhiana said he had to travel to Mata Vaishno Devi in Jammu and Kashmir's Katra, but decided to change his plan after waiting at the station for a few hours on Friday.
On Thursday, hundreds of passengers travelling to various destinations, including Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, were stranded at Ambala Cantonment station in Haryana as rail movement was hit in Punjab.
A large number of passengers, many of them pilgrims, were also stranded at Jammu and Katra stations of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday as seven trains were cancelled and 13 diverted due to the agitation.
The agitation has directly affected the Ambala and the Ferozepur railway divisions, a railway official said.
Several farmer groups, including the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee; Bharti Kisan Union (Krantikari); Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Azaad); Azaad Kisan Committee, Doaba; Bharti Kisan Union (Behramke); Bharti Kisan Union (Shaheed Bhagat Singh) and the Bharti Kisan Union (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 (MSP) price for all crops, and a debt waiver for farmers.
The farmers want a Rs 50,000-crore flood relief package for north Indian states and MSP according to the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report, farmer leader Gurbachan Singh 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 Centre's now-repealed farm laws.