Rail roko: Protesting farmers sit on tracks in Punjab, Hry; officials stop 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 'rail roko' protest against the Centre's new agri laws, with officials stopping trains at stations as a precautionary measure.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions which is spearheading the protest, last week had announced the nationwide rail blockade to press for its demand to repeal the legislations and had said that the agitation will be from 12 pm to 4 pm.

There were reports that farmers at Kurukshetra in Haryana climbed on the locomotive of the Gita Jayanti Express train, which was stationary at that time.

'The train was scheduled to leave from the Kurukshetra station after 3 pm,' a railway official in Kurukshetra said.

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

Farmers blocked the Jalandhar Cantt-Jammu railway track in Jalandhar and in Mohali district also farmers blocked a rail track, they said.

In Haryana, protesting farmers, including women, squatted on rail tracks at many places, including in Ambala, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Panchkula and Fatehabad (Bhattu Kalan) districts, the officials said.

On the Ambala-Delhi railway section, a group of farmers led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader from Ambala, Gulab Singh, squatted on a rail 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'Our protest will continue in a peaceful manner till the farm laws are repealed,' Bhartiya Kisan Union leader from Ambala Gulab Singh Manakpur said.

Security has been tightened in both Haryana and Punjab with personnel of the government railway police and the state police forces being deployed, officials said.

The Ferozepur division of the Northern Railways has decided to halt trains at stations so that passengers face less inconvenience during the 'rail roko' protest.

The officials said that the movement of trains is likely to be delayed because of the farmers' rail blockade. Train services will be resumed after following due security protocols once the agitation is over, they said.

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

Divisional Railway Manager, Ambala Division, G M Singh said that no train has been cancelled in view of the 'rail roko' agitation.

Four trains were scheduled to pass from Ambala between 12 to 4 pm, railway officials said.

Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) members will block railway tracks at 22 places, including at Nabha, Mansa, Barnala, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Jalandhar and Tarn Taran, in Punjab, the organisation's general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting since late November at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the 'mercy' of big corporations.

However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture. PTI CHS SUN ANB ANB ANB