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Farmers in Punjab begin rail blockades

Railways suspends several trains till Sept. 26 as protests intensify against farm Bills

Farmers in parts of Punjab on Thursday started a three-day ‘rail roko’ agitation under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti (KMSS) against the Union government’s three farm Bills.

The railways suspended several trains completely or partially till September 26 for the safety of passengers and protection of its property. Members of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) blocked railway tracks in Sangrur and Barnala, while members of the Samiti blocked railway lines in Amritsar and Ferozpur.

“The ‘rail roko’ will continue till September 26 in the first phase… And if our demands are not met, we will intensify the agitation,” said Sarvan Singh Pandher, State president of KMSS. “We will also support the Bharat bandh call given by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee,” said Mr. Pandher, adding that representatives of political parties will not be allowed to share the stage in their agitation”.

Terming the farm Bills an “ill-conceived move”, Mr. Pandher said their implementation would ultimately lead to exploitation of farmers at the hands of big corporates. “It will lead to the end of the Minimum Support Price regime,” he said.

As many as 31 farmers’ outfits based in Punjab have given a call for a total shutdown on September 25. Over 250 farmer and farmworker organisations, under the umbrella of the AIKSCC, have given a call for ‘Bharat bandh’ the same day. Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), said all the 31 farmer outfits have decided to stop railway traffic indefinitely from October 1, if their demands are not fulfilled.

“Also, we will socially boycott MPs and MLAs who are in favour of the farm Bills. Besides, a resolution will be passed by the gram sabha of each village to cancel the Bills and Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh would be urged to convene a special session of the Assembly and pass a resolution not to implement agricultural laws in Punjab,” he said.

The ruling Congress has extended its support to the shutdown and appealed to people to make it successful.

The Shiromani Akali Dal has announced that to get the agricultural Bills reversed, the party will hold a State-wide ‘chakka-jam’ (road blockade) on September 25. The party will observe a three-hour programme from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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