Punjab farmers end rail blockade, to protest against ministers

Chandigarh, Oct 13 (IANS) Punjab farmers demanding better compensation for losses due to whitefly pest attack on cotton crop ended on Tuesday the week-long rail blockade and decided to protest against state ministers.

After a meeting of eight farmers’ organisations here, the ‘rail roko’ (railway blockade) was called off on the seventh day. The protest had hit hundreds of trains.

“We have decided to end the rail roko. We will now ‘gherao’ Punjab ministers at their residences and other functions,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Jagmohan Singh said here.

The rail blockade had affected over 800 trains in Punjab over the past week, putting thousands of passengers to inconvenience.

The Monday meeting was held after talks between farmers’ leaders and the Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, on Monday failed to end the deadlock.

The government said it was not in a position to accept the demands of the agitating farmers, government sources said.

Badal reiterated that the Akali Dal-BJP alliance government was committed to the welfare of farmers and farm labourers.

Akali Dal leader and MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said the meeting was held in a “positive atmosphere”.

Over 800 trains, including the Samjhauta Express train between India and Pakistan, were cancelled or diverted due to the agitation by farmers.

Thousands of train passengers were stranded. The loss to the railways and other agencies is said to be over Rs.100 crore.

Agitating farmers are demanding compensation of Rs.40,000 per acre for loss of cotton crop, purchase of basmati rice at the minimum support price and immediate release of payments to sugarcane growers.

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