At least 28 passenger trains have been cancelled as famers in Punjab continued blocking train tracks as part of the “Rail Roko” protest against the three new controversial farm bills now extended till September 29. However, the Railways is yet to announce a revised schedule.
Farmers, thousands of whom blocked highways and rail tracks despite the coronavirus pandemic and searing heat as part of Bharat Bandh on Friday, have said they will intensify protests against the farm bills as the central government has not reached out to them at all.
They added that will not allow any political party to share stage with them during these protests as the BJP-led central government maintains that the farmers have been “misled” on the issue.
“PM Modi will repeal these bills, he will not be able to pull off these changes on ground. He’s blaming the opposition for instigating us. This is not correct. We have read the ordinances (now bills). The corporates have pushed PM Modi to introduce these changes. We are getting support from farmers across the country; our numbers are huge. This is a very big people’s movement,” said Sarwan Singh Pandher, State Secretary of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, who translated the bills into Punjabi and distributed it among farmers.
More than 265 groups affiliated with the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee and around 100 non-affiliated groups took part in Friday’s nationwide protests seeking complete rollback of Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bil.
With these bills – cleared within a week’s time in the parliament – farmers fear the loss of the price support system (MSP) and the entry of private players, who, they say, will put small and marginal farmers at risk. However, the government has said the bills will help farmers get better prices by allowing them to sell their produce at markets and prices of their choice.
As farmers protested on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told BJP workers to “reach out to the farmers… and inform them in very simplified language about the importance and intricacies of the new farm reforms…”.