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Thaw in sight as Punjab farmers meet to decide on strategy for talks with Centre on farm laws

Representatives of 29 farmer organisations are meeting in Chandigarh on Tuesday to decide on the course of action following the Centre’s second invite for talks on the new agriculture laws in Delhi on Wednesday.

It is learnt that most of the farmer organisations are in favour of the meeting, except the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee based in Majha. The committee has rejected the meeting call, saying the invite is a ploy to divide farmers as farmer organisations from neighbouring Haryana and other states have not been invited.

However, two major farmer organisations, the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) and the BKU (Dakounda), which have the largest support base in Punjab are open to the talks and want a truce in the ongoing struggle.

SHOULD NOT CLOSE CHANNEL OF TALKS: BKU (DAKOUNDA)

“We should hear what the government has to say and should not close the channel of talks,” said Jagmohan Singh, the general secretary of the BKU (Dakounda). However, Satnam Singh Pannu, the president of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee differed with him. “The Centre has invited farmers to discuss the benefits of the new farm laws but we have rejected it as it is detrimental to our interest. No point meeting them,” said Pannu.

The farmers have been on the protest path since September 25 against the three new farm bills passed in Parliament by the Narendra Modi government that seek to liberalise agriculture. They have blocked major rail routes in Punjab and held up traffic on highways besides holding protests in front of corporate establishments to register their protest.

PUNJAB GOVT APPEALS FOR RESTORING RAIL TRAFFIC

The Punjab government, which came out in support of the farmers in their protest, has reiterated its appeal to them to end the rail blockade as it has severely impacted essential supplies, including fertilisers such as di-ammonium phosphate and urea, required for wheat sowing.

“The movement of foodgrain from the state has also come to a standstill and stocks are piling up. We want stocks to move out so that space is vacated for the paddy harvest,” said an officer of the state food department.

BKU (EKTA-UGRAHAN) LIFTS RAIL BLOCKADE

The BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) has decided to lift the blockade on railway tracks and other farmer unions are expected to take a call at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We were holding protests on rail tracks at three places, including Sunam and Nabha, and have decided to lift these blockades. However, protests will be held outside the houses of eight BJP leaders across the state. As for the rail blockades at other places, it is for the other organisations to decide,” BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) state general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said.

DWINDLING COAL STOCKS A WORRY

The Punjab government has also cited dwindling coal stocks in the state thermal plants as a concern if the rail blockade continues. An official said if the supply doesn’t arrive, generating units might shut down, leading to power cuts.

A state-level committee of three cabinet ministers is also awaiting a meeting with the farmer union leaders.

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