Punjab farmers launch "rail roko" agitation against controversial agriculture Bills
Farmers in Punjab launched a three-day-long "rail roko" agitation from Thursday, to protest against three contentious farm Bills, behind which the BJP-led Centre has pushed its weight. A state-wide bandh has also been called on September 25, Friday, by various outfits. In view of the "rail roko" agitation, 28 special trains plying from the Ferozepur division were canceled, fully or partially. Here's more.
In the Monsoon Session that ended yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government introduced three Bills — The Farmers' 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. On Sunday, amid ruckus in the Rajya Sabha, two Bills were passed through a voice note.
The Centre has dubbed these Bills as revolutionary, which will ease rules concerning pricing, storage, and sale. These restrictions devoid the Indian farmer of the free market for decades. But farmers are worried the Bills will do away with MSPs and leave them with no-option but becoming hugely dependent on private players. The government has repeatedly ensured that MSP-based procurement will remain as is.
Evidently, the protests against the Bills are more concentrated in Punjab, Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh. The farmers from these areas benefited extraordinarily from the MSP system in the decades following the Green Revolution. According to government data, 95% of paddy farmers in Punjab and 70% in Haryana reaped benefits from the MSP system. At the national level, this number is merely 12%.
As the Centre pushed the Bills in the Parliament, farmers intensified their protests on the streets. Announcing that a "rail roko" agitation will take place from September 24 to 26, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee General Secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said, "We have decided to hold a "rail roko" agitation from September 24 to 26 in the state against the farm Bills."
To note, most of the trains are suspended due to coronavirus-related restrictions, and the agitation will affect a handful of special trains. Divisional railway manager (DRM) Rajesh Agarwal said the Ferozepur division was operating merely 14 pairs of special trains. All of them were impacted due to the agitation. He added that the operations of freight trains would depend on the situation, reports HT.
As per the new schedule, the Amritsar-Haridwar train will be suspended from September 25 to 26. The New Delhi-Jammu Tawi Express will be canceled between September 24 and 26. The Hazur Saheb Nanded-Amritsar train will end its journey at Old Delhi itself and not go till Amritsar. Similarly, the Dhanbad-Ferozepur Cantt train will end the journey at Ambala Cantt and not at Ferozepur Cantt.
The Mumbai Central-Amritsar train, which was to end its journey today, will be diverted to Ludhiana. From September 25-26, the train will culminate at Ambala Cantt. In the three days of protest, this train will start from Ambala and not Amritsar.
At a time when farmers have strengthened their protest, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said they will be able to choose their markets. While speaking to ANI he said, "APMCs are run by state governments, our Bill cannot shut it down and we don't even intend to do so. Our law says that trade area outside APMC mandis will be free from tax."