The protest in Punjab by farmers has literally paralysed train services in the state. The agitated farmers are protesting against government’s response to the cotton crop being attacked by whiteflies in the Malwa region where the pest damaged more than 60 percent of the crop causing a loss of hundreds of crores of rupees to the farmers.
The disappointed farmers are demanding a compensation of Rs. 40,000 per acre for the loss of cotton crop along with immediate release of money for the ones who grow sugarcane and a higher support price for basmati rice. The farmers have already extended their “rail roko” (railway blockade) protest and have dismissed the appeal of Punjab’s Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to end the protest.
Railways, however, are the worst hit by this protest. More than 800 trains have been affected that mostly comprise of Punjab and Haryana. Railway officials are terming this protest as the worst ever in Punjab which has nearly diverted or cancelled every major train in Punjab. Even the peace train between Pakistan and India, the Samjhauta Express, is affected. The loss to railways and state administration is said to be estimated at Rs.100 crores.
Despite being invited by talks by the ministers, those leading the protest have decided to extend their agitation until next course of talks with the Punjab government. This rail blockade protest was given a green signal by eight farmer organisations which included some factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union as well so as to protest Punjab government’s anti-farmer policies.