Farmers commence nationwide rail roko agitation; railways, police deploy additional forces near tracks
The agitation, scheduled to end at 4 pm, comes weeks after farmers's unions held a chakka jam on 6 February and a tractor parade to Delhi on 26 January
Farmers gathered near railway tracks at many places in Punjab and Haryana for the 'rail roko' protest against the Centre's new Farms laws with officials restricting trains at stations as a precautionary measure.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions that is spearheading the protest, last week had announced the nationwide rail blockade to press for its demand to repeal the legislations and had said that the agitation will be from 12 pm to 4 pm. Jagtar Singh Bajwa, spokesperson of the Kisan Andolan Committee, Ghazipur border said they will carry out a peaceful protest during the 'Rail Roko' program. We will offer refreshments to the passengers to avoid inconvenience, he said.
Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) members will block railway tracks at 22 places, including at Nabha, Mansa, Barnala, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Jalandhar and Tarn Taran, in Punjab, the organisation's general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said.
In response, Indian Railways has deployed 20 additional companies of the Railway Protection Special Force across the country, with a focus on Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, in the wake of the "rail roko" call. Sources in the northern railways told PTI they are expecting that 'rail roko' agitations will be concentrated in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. "We have around 80 trains which run through potentially sensitive areas and most of them would have passed through them before 12 pm," an official said.
Security has been tightened in both Haryana and Punjab with personnel of the government railway police and the state police forces being deployed, officials said.
The Ferozepur division of the Northern Railways has decided to halt trains at stations so that passengers face less inconvenience during the 'rail roko' protest. Officials said that the movement of trains is likely to be delayed because of the farmers' rail blockade. Train services will be resumed after following due security protocols once the agitation is over, they said.
In Haryana, besides railway police personnel, the Haryana Police has deployed its staff in large numbers near the protest sites and at various railway stations. Divisional Railway Manager, Ambala Division, GM Singh said that no train has been cancelled in view of the 'rail roko' agitation.
In Bhiwani district of Haryana, tracks will be blocked at four places, including at Siwani and Loharu, a farmer leader from the district said.
In Ambala, farmers gathered near railway tracks at Shahpur village, about 2 kilometres from the Ambala Cantt railway station. Four trains are scheduled to pass through Ambala between 12 pm and 4 pm, railway officials said. Bhartiya Kisan Union leader from Ambala Gulab Singh Manakpur said the protest will be peaceful.
The Delhi Police tightened security in several parts of the national capital, especially near railway tracks. According to a senior police officer, additional staff has been deployed at several points near railway tracks and patrolling has also been increased.
Though there is no information on whether rail blockades will take place inside the national capital, police have made adequate security arrangements, another officer told PTI.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting since late November at the Delhi borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations. However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.
Earlier, farmer unions had called a 'chakka jam' on 6 February and a tractor parade in Delhi on 26 January, during which a section of protesters clashed with police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
With inputs from PTI