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Published On: Fri, Sep 25th, 2020

Farmers’ Union Extends Punjab ‘Rail Roko’ Agitation till Sept 29

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farmner_2_20200915_402_602NEW DELHI/ CHANDIGRAH:  : As anger against the Centre mounts in Punjab, over the passing of the three controversial Bills, especially the Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, which seeks to simplify the entry of private players in food grain purchase, farmers are all set to intensify their agitation in the coming days. Farmers fear that the government will withdraw from the MSP regime of guaranteed prices for food grains.
Frmers from across Punjab have launched their protest against the three Agriculture Bills passed by Parliament, by giving a call for Punjab Bandh.
The “rail roko” that began in Amritsar and Ferozepur districts yesterday continued today and has been extended till Tuesday (September 29). In addition, to the above two districts, tracks will be blocked in Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Jalalabad, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti said Friday evening. The group also hit out at BJP workers spreading “rumours” that the protesting farmers would engage in violence.
As angry farmers occupied highways and shut down all non-essential traffic – the Punjab-Haryana border was sealed near Ambala – a key border crossing. The Delhi-Amritsar highway was blocked at several places by farmers from the BKU and the Revolutionary Marxist Party of India.
Several of the farmers’ protests were noteworthy in that they refused to allow politicians to sit in with them. They criticised parties for only caring about votes – polls are due in Punjab next year and the Akalis count farmers as their key constituency.
Farmers also gathered in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida (which borders national capital Delhi), prompting deployment of police in riot gear to keep them from crossing the border. Around 200 farmers were stopped in Noida’s Sector 14A.

After protesting for over three hours, they dispersed. In parts of UP, escalating protests led to the Ayodhya-Lucknow highway being blocked. Farmers also blocked the Delhi-Meerut highway in Modinagar near Ghaziabad. Farmers from the state’s Kheri district have also gathered in protest.

Several  farmer organisations in the state are participating in the bandh. Since early morning, farmers from all over the state started gathering at designated roads across the state, and stopping the movement of all traffic and requesting traders to keep their shops closed.
The response to the bandh is good as reports from across the state suggest a near lockdown. With the dairy farmers extending support to the farmers in their protest, milk supply to all cities was affected.
In Amritsar, milkmen had supplied milk on Thursday night. In Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh, the movement of industrial goods scheduled for Friday was advanced and highways saw a massive rush of goods carriers leaving the industrial towns between Thursday evening and night.
The protesting farmer organisations have galvanised immense support from farmers and small groups of protesters, with members of each of these 31 organisations laying siege on the main and arterial roads. It is one of the rare occasions when all farmer organisations are protesting in a coordinated manner.

The Punjab Bandh is getting a massive response with patwaris, traders, unions of various state government employees, commission agents, dairy farmers, singers, artistes and all major political parties supporting them.
Even as each of the political parties in the state have offered their help to the protesting farmers, the latter have refused their help. Punjab’s Congress government has decided to declare the entire area of the state, outside the mandis, into principal market yards. This would prevent the implementation of the Central Act in the state.
The protests will intensify, the farmers said, unless the bills are repealed. Opposition parties like the Congress, the RJD and the Trinamool, as well as 10 central trade unions, have voiced their support for the farmers.
Faced with the protests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today hailed the farm bills as “historic” and hit out at the opposition for misleading the farmers. The government has said the bills will help farmers get better prices by allowing them to sell their produce at markets and prices of their choice. Farmers, however, fear the loss of the price support system (MSP) and the entry of private players who, they say, will put small and marginal farmers at risk.
“More than 265 farmers’ groups affiliated with the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) took part in protests today. Additionally, around 100 non-affiliated groups also participated. I have received inputs from organising secretaries that protests were held at around 20,000 spots nationwide,” Avik Saha, the AIKSCC General Secretary, told media.
In Punjab, a “complete shutdown” was called for by 31 farmers’ groups protesting under the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) banner. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh earlier said the Congress-led state government supports the farmers and no FIRs will be registered for violation of prohibitory orders.

Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who resigned as Union Minister last week, joined protests in her constituency of Bathinda. The Akalis – long-time BJP allies – are said to be considering their ties with the ruling NDA.
In poll-bound Bihar, opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav took part in a tractor rally to protest the farm bills.
In Bengal farmers’ groups affiliated to Left parties took out rallies in some districts and blocked roads for some time. There were protests in the rural belts of Hooghly,

Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas, Bankura and Nadia districts, among others. Some carried agricultural produce and shouted slogans against the PM and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. Farmers’ groups linked to the ruling Trinamool Congress also protested; some farmers burned copies of the bill and effigies of Prime Minister Modi.

Members of the Karnataka State Farmers’ Association protested on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu highway. Around 250 were taken into preventive custody at Mysore Bank Circle in Bengaluru.
A group of farmers met with Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa but failed to reach an understanding. A statewide protest called for on Monday will go ahead as planned. In Tamil Nadu, farmers from the National South Indian River Interlinking Farmers’ Association protested in Trichy with human skulls, chained hands and nooses tied around their necks.
Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi both, of whom have been active in the criticism of the bills, tweeted again today. Mrs Gandhi Vadra said: “They (the farmers) will be forced to become slaves of trillions through contract farming.” Mr Gandhi said: “… The new agriculture laws will enslave our farmers”.
Meanwhile,  Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today expressed hope that the pain of the agitating farmers, who braved the pandemic and the heat to protest against the agriculture Bills, will reach the central government and it will step back from “destroying the farm sector with such ruthless disregard for the farming community”.
“Maybe the distressing visuals of tens of hundreds of farmers out on the roads at hundreds of locations in Punjab, and in several other states, will touch the hearts of the central leadership. Perhaps the BJP will now realise its folly,” he said in a statement.
Hundreds of farmers gathered on a key road in Noida in Uttar Pradesh in a protest demonstration on Friday, prompting deployment of police in riot gear that kept them from proceeding towards Delhi.
The farmers under the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) banner are protesting the farm sector bills, alleging they were “anti-farmer” legislations, that were passed by the Parliament .

Protesting farmer organisations have blocked several national highways, including the Delhi-Amritsar highway, Delhi-Meerut highway, Karnataka-Tamil Naadu highway. Huge traffic jams have also been reported from Ayodhya-Lucknow highway.
Farmers in Punjab have also started a three-day rail blockade against the bills, squatting on tracks at many places. The farmer outfits have also decided to call an indefinite rail blockade from October 1. Amarinder Singh said the state government was fully with the farmers in their fight against the bills and no FIRs would be registered for violation of Section 144, which bars assembly of more than four people.
(With Agency Inputs ).

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