CHANDIGARH: All 30 farmer unions of Punjab have demanded the Centre must first restore the goods train movement before they could consider allowing passenger trains in the state. The unions also warned the neighbouring Haryana government not to stop them on the way to Delhi for the November 26-27 agitation.
After a four-hour meeting called to discuss the future course of action in the ongoing farmers’ agitation, the farmer unions said the Centre “must show its good intention” by allowing goods trains to operate.
Supply of commodities like fertilisers and coal for power plants has been hit due to the weeks-long standoff between farmer unions and the Railways.
The Railways has refused to resume goods trains, saying it would either operate both freight and passenger trains or none.
The farmers are protesting against the new agri-marketing laws enacted at the Centre, claiming that they would lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system.
After the meeting, Ruldu Singh Mansa, president of Punjab Kisan Union, said, “Allowing the goods train movement will signal lifting of the economic blockade. On our part, then, we would consider allowing passenger trains to pass through the state.”
He blamed the Centre for delaying the goods train service.
“We’d like to tell the industrialists that we are fighting for a cause which is directly linked to the state’s economy,’’ said Mansa.
“We discussed the route plan for our Delhi rally in view of reports that attempts will be made to stop the farmers’ march to the national capital. All district committees will be meeting on November 21, to chalk out a plan.”
“The Centre has to withdraw all the three farm laws… nothing less than that would be acceptable to us,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has expressed disappointment over the refusal of the farmers to completely lift their rail blockade.
The meeting here comes days after farmer bodies' leaders met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash in Delhi.
That meeting had remained inconclusive.
Singh expressed disappointment over the "adamant refusal" of the farmer unions to completely lift their rail blockade, saying it has brought the state virtually to a standstill for the past month and a half.
In a statement, he called the farmer unions' decision "extremely unfortunate", saying their blockade of passenger trains was obstructing the movement of goods trains as well.
He said he had expected them to back down from their "unyielding" approach in the interest of Punjab, particularly in view of the state government's absolute support for their cause.
"They should realise things could not continue like this ad infinitum, and if rail transportation continued to remain suspended any longer, the state would plunge into an irreversible crisis," he said.
He added that no government could afford such a situation.
Industry has already suffered losses to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore so far, he said.
Industries in Ludhiana and Jalandhar alone has borne Rs 22,000 crore in losses.
Over 13,500 containers are lying at Dhandari dry port, from where they could not be sent to other parts of the country.
In the agriculture sector, 60,000 gunny bags are stuck in Delhi and Rajpura, impacting the lifting of paddy from grain markets, the CM said.
He said the suspension of train services has also prevented the supply of 40 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice from Punjab to Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh for the public distribution system, causing the central government to pick up grain from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
On the agricultural front, 60,000 paddy gunny bags are stuck in Delhi and Rajpura, impacting the lifting of paddy from grain markets, he said.
Farm leader Ruldu Singh said "lakhs of farmers" will go to Delhi on tractors to take part in a protest on November 26 and 27 against the new farm laws.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a body of more than 200 farmer organisations across the country, has given a "Delhi Chalo" call.
He said farmers have been holding protests outside the homes of several BJP leaders in the state.
(With PTI Inputs)