The Railway Ministry has let out a word of caution that the three-day “Rail roko” (railway blockade) protest called by farmers in Punjab over the Union government’s three agriculture sector Bills will severely hamper the transport of foodgrains and other essential goods.
In light of the protest, Railways have suspended 20 trains passing through Punjab between Thursday and Saturday for safety of passengers and property. Many freight and parcel trains too have been rescheduled.
“Punjab rail agitation will severely impact loading of foodgrains and other essential goods. It will hurt ordinary citizens and fast-recovering rail freight and economy,” a Railway ministry spokesperson stated.
The protests are being held against the passing of Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that was cleared by both Houses of Parliament in the monsoon session that ended Wednesday.
Opposition parties and farmers groups have alleged that the bill prioritises interests of corporate entities over the interests of farmers.
According to the Railway ministry, Punjab loaded 990 rakes of foodgrains procured by the Food Corporation of India in August this year and 816 rakes this month until September 23.
The FCI is loading more than 35 rakes of foodgrains daily from Punjab. Punjab also loads 9-10 rakes daily of fertilizer, cement, automobiles and mixed goods in containers.
The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee with the backing of different farmers groups is holding the agitation.
The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), representing 12 farmers’ organisations based in UP, MP, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and Haryana, has called for a complete nationwide bandh on Friday.
“We farmers have been demanding fair and remunerative prices for the past four decades. The BJP government made election promises of doubling farmers’ incomes. Instead of fulfilling that promise, we are being slapped with these Bills designed to end the governments’ responsibility to ensure a fair price to farmers. When seen in totality, these bills have nothing to do with improving farmers’ incomes, over 80 per cent of whom are small and marginal farmers.”~Yudhvir Singh, national convener of the ICCFM
The protests are expected to affect freight traffic, which has seen some recovery in recent months.