Punjab farmers to lift rail blockade from Monday, but threaten to return if concerns not addressed in 15 days
Protests at toll plazas, outside railway stations, shopping malls and residences of BJP leaders will continue, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) said
Chandigarh: In a move that may bring relief to the state facing an acute shortage of essential supplies, Punjab farmer bodies protesting against the Centre’s farm laws on Saturday decided to lift their blockade of passenger trains for 15 days from Monday.
However, the farmer bodies said they will again block the rail tracks if the government failed to resolve their issues.
Meanwhile, Divisional Railway Manager (Ferozepur Division) Rajesh Aggarwal in a statement said as soon as farmers lift their blockade, the Railways will be ready to resume its services.
The train services have remained suspended in the state since 24 September, when farmers launched their “rail roko” agitation against the Centre’s recently enacted agriculture-related laws.
Earlier, farmers had allowed freight trains but the Railways refused to resume these, saying it would either operate both freight and passenger trains or none.
The decision to lift the blockade of passenger trains came after a meeting of farmer leaders with Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh. The decision was announced by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal.
He warned of resumption of the blockade if the Central Government fails to hold talks with the farmers' representatives in the next 15 days to address their concerns.
“We have decided to allow passenger trains from 23 November evening,” said Darshan Pal, president of the Krantikari Kisan Union.
The Punjab CM too welcomed the decision.
“Had a fruitful meeting with Kisan Unions. Happy to share that starting 23rd Nov night, Kisan Unions have decided to end rail blockades for 15 days. I welcome this step since it will restore normalcy to our economy. I urge Central Govt to resume rail services to Punjab forthwith,” tweeted Amarinder.
Before meeting the Punjab chief minister, farmer organisations held their own meeting to deliberate on the issue.
“The decision was taken while keeping in mind the interest of Punjab,” Buta Singh Shadipur, president of the Bharati Kisan Manch, told the media after the meeting here.
He said the decision has not been taken under any pressure either from the Centre or the Punjab government.
“If the Centre does not resolve our issues, we will again block rail tracks," he said.
Farmer leaders further said they will go to the National Capital as per their 26-27 November "Delhi Chalo" march call.
Buta Singh Burjgill, president of the BKU (Dakonda), said their protests at toll plazas, outside railway stations, shopping malls and residences of BJP leaders will continue.
Earlier soon after the farmers' announcement, the Punjab chief minister urged the Centre to reciprocate it by restoring all train services and hold further talks with them.
The chief minister assured the farmer leaders that he would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah soon to press for their demands, according to a government statement.
The chief minister also promised the farmer representatives that he will look into their other demands, including those relating to the sugarcane price hike, clearance of dues and withdrawal of FIRs registered in stubble-burning cases.
He said he will hold talks with them on these issues within the next week and will also set up a committee in this regard.
In his appeal earlier, the chief minister pointed out that if the rail services are not restored, the state will continue to face immense problems.
He urged the farmer bodies to let the train services resume as the blockade had caused Rs 40,000 crore in losses to the state so far.
Pointing to a shortage of coal, fertilisers and other essential commodities, he said a large number of units had closed down in Ludhiana and Jalandhar due to scarcity of raw material, resulting in six lakh migrant labourers going back to their native places.
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