Thousands of passengers in Punjab were hit hard on Wednesday as a few trains were stopped by protesting farmers on the first day of their two-day agitation and some others were diverted by the railway authorities.
The ‘rail roko’ agitation call was given by eight farmers organisations, including various factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, to protest against the “anti-farmer policies” of the Punjab government.
The farmers are particularly agitated with the Parkash Singh Badal government’s response to the whitefly attack on the cotton crop in the Malwa belt which led to over 60 percent of the crop being damaged and losses of farmers running into hundreds of crores.
The agitating farmers are demanding compensation of at least Rs.40,000 per acre for cotton crop loss and higher support price for Basmati rice. They stopped at least six trains on the Ludhiana-Ferozepur, Bathinda-Ferozepur and other tracks.
Railway officials said that a few trains had already been diverted on some routes in view of the agitation. Passengers on these trains had to face delays as farmers squatted on the railway tracks.
The agitation by farmers will continue on Thursday.
Chief minister Badal had last week announced compensation of Rs.600 crore to the farmers whose crop was damaged by the white-fly attack.
Punjab’s agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu was arrested on Monday on charges of cheating and corruption for his alleged role in the purchase of spurious and poor quality pesticide to counter the whitefly attack.