Rail roko: Farmers sit on tracks in Punjab, Hry, stopping trains at stations

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Chandigarh, Feb 18 (PTI) Farmers on Thursday sat on railway tracks at many places in Punjab and Haryana as part of the four-hour 'rail roko' protest against the Centre's three farm laws, with officials saying some trains were halted at stations as a precautionary measure.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions which is spearheading the protest, had last week announced the nationwide rail blockade to seek the repeal of the three farm laws.

The farmers sat on tracks as part of the 'rail roko' agitation from 12 noon to 4 pm, holding up normal movement of trains on various rail routes during this period.

Railway officials said the agitation passed off peacefully.

Farmers at Kurukshetra in Haryana climbed on the locomotive of the Gita Jayanti Express train, which had been stopped at the station.

'The train was scheduled to leave from the Kurukshetra station after 3 pm,' a railway official in Kurukshetra said, adding the farmers did not allow the train engine to change its end for some time.

In Punjab, protesters sat on tracks at many places on the Delhi-Ludhiana-Amritsar railway route, officials said.

They blocked the Jalandhar Cantt-Jammu railway track in Jalandhar.

Farmers also squatted on railway tracks at Mullanpur, Dakha and Jagraon on Ludhiana-Ferozepur rail route in Ludhiana, said officials.

Bathinda-Delhi rail track in Bathinda, Delhi-Amritsar track in Amritsar, Amritsar-Tarn Taran track were also blocked by protesters.

In Haryana, protesting farmers, including women, squatted on railway tracks at many places, including those in Ambala, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Panchkula, Rohtak, Sonipat, Hisar and Fatehabad districts, the officials said.

At some places, including those in Jind and Fatehabad districts, farmers could be seen smoking 'hookahs' while sitting on tracks.

On the Ambala-Delhi railway section, a group of farmers led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader from Ambala, Gulab Singh Mankpur, squatted on the railway track at Shahpur village, about 2 kilometres from the Ambala Cantt station.

'Our protest will continue in a peaceful manner till the farm laws are repealed,' said Manakpur.

Meanwhile, several passengers expressed resentment that they had to face inconvenience as the trains got delayed due to farmers agitation.

In Rohtak's Sampla, Sri Ganganagar-Haridwar intercity express train remained halted for a few hours, while Paschim Express was held up at Panipat.

A passenger traveling in this train told reporters at the railway station that she had to face inconvenience as she was traveling with an infant.

One of passengers stuck at Jalandhar railway station amid the 'rail roko' protest rued that passengers were facing inconvenience because of the stoppage of trains.

“Passengers are facing problems. Somebody has to reach home for some work or someone may have any problem at his home. My wife who met with an accident is at home but I am stuck here. Trains should not be stopped,' said a passenger.

Meanwhile, a group of farmers served 'langar' to passengers at Jalandhar railway station.

Security was beefed up in both Haryana and Punjab with the government railway police and state police personnel having been deployed at many places in the two states, officials said.

Ferozepur's Divisional Railway Manager Rajesh Aggarwal said farmers staged 'dharnas' at around 50 places, but neither any train was cancelled nor diverted because of the protest.

The Ferozepur division of the Northern Railways halted some trains at stations so that passengers face less inconvenience during the 'rail roko' protest.

Trains which were to run between 12 noon and 4 pm, were halted at their respective stations, he further said, adding such trains included Dhanbad Express stopped at Ferozepur Cantt and Shahid Express at Amritsar.

Railway officials said train services resumed later with necessary security protocols when farmers' dharna' was lifted.

In Haryana, besides railway police personnel, the Haryana Police had deployed its staff in large numbers near protest sites and at various railway stations.

Divisional Railway Manager, Ambala Division, G M Singh said no train had been cancelled due to the rail roko' agitation.

The Ambala DRM, however, said mail and goods trains were stopped at Saharanpur (UP), Ambala (Haryana) and Sirhind (Punjab).

These three railway stations fall in Ambala Railway Division of the Northern Railways.

In Jind, the railway tracks were blocked near Barsola village, where a large number of farmers, including women, squatted on them.

In Yamunanagar railway station, farmers squatted on Yamunagar-Jagadhri rail track while in Bahadurgarh, farmers, including women, with many of them carrying tricolour in their hands, sat on tracks.

Protesters including women sitting on rail tracks and carrying flags of farmers' bodies shouted slogans against the Centre and sought repeal of the farm laws. PTI CHS SUN RAX RAX