New Delhi: Several farmer unions from six North Indian states have launched a three-day ‘rail roko’ protest in various parts of Punjab, blocking train tracks at 12 locations to press for their demands, which include a Rs 50,000 crore flood relief package, a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) on all crops, and a debt waiver for farmers. The protest, which started on Thursday, has affected the movement of 91 trains in the region, causing inconvenience to thousands of passengers, especially devotees visiting the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Katra.
Senior railway official Prateek Srivastava told PTI that the agitation has directly impacted Ambala and Firozpur railway divisions and that 60 to 70 per cent of the trains are being rerouted via the Nakodar area (in Punjab). He said that Jalandhar is the most affected area and that two special trains for Katra have been cancelled. He also said that the Shivshakti train has been cancelled¹.
Railway officials said that so far 13 trains have been diverted and seven trains cancelled due to the agitation. They said that officers have been deployed on 24-hour duty to monitor train traffic and ensure minimum inconvenience to passengers.
However, many passengers are stranded at Jammu and Katra railway stations and are facing difficulties due to cancellation and diversion of trains¹. According to a railway official, 15,000 to 20,000 people reach Katra station every day and 70 percent of them are devotees.
The farmers’ protest is led by the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), which has the support of farmer bodies from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. KMSC general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said that if anyone tried to be unfair with the farmers of Punjab, then farmers from Haryana would also join Punjab farmers. He said that farmers were united throughout the country.
Pandher said that the agitation had been called by 18 unions in North India. He said that Home Minister Amit Shah had come to Amritsar and had promised to bring MSP guarantee law but the committee had not been formed yet. He also said that the cases that had been registered during the Delhi agitation had not been withdrawn.
Farmer leader Gurbachan Singh said in Amritsar that they also wanted government jobs for the family of each farmer who died during the yearlong agitation against the now-repealed three farm laws of the Centre.