Punjab farmers’ protest against the Centre’s new farm laws continued on Saturday as they squatted on rail tracks for an indefinite period. The agitating farmers also raised slogans against the government and said that the stir will go on till their demand for revoking the new laws was not accepted.
A total of 31 farmers’ bodies have joined hands to step up their agitation. They had announced to block rail tracks from October 1 for an indefinite period.
The farmers have blocked rail tracks at many places including Dhablan (Patiala), Sunam (Sangrur), Budhlada (Mansa), Gidderbaha (Muktsar), Barnala, Bathinda, Faridkot, Gurdaspur, Rupnagar, Phillaur, Samrala and Moga.
Farmers under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee have been squatting at rail tracks in Amritsar and Ferozepur since September 24.
According to Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal, besides blocking rail tracks at 33 places, farmers have also staged sit-ins outside 24 petrol pumps, nine toll plazas, four shopping malls, a thermal power plant and a foodgrain godown belonging to some corporate houses.
The farmers have also given a call to boycott some corporate houses and their products in the State. According to them, the Centre wants to “benefit” a few corporate houses with the “black laws”.
‘Dharnas’ were also being staged outside the houses of five BJP leaders, including former Punjab BJP chief Shwait Malik.
In Ferozepur, women have also joined farmers who have been agitating at a rail track near Basti Tankan Wali. At Amritsar, protesting farmers burnt the effigies of the government.
In Phagwara, police prevented the farmers from moving towards the residence of Union Minister Som Parkash.
The protesters wanted to ‘gherao’ the residence. Police personnel, led by Superintendent of Police Manwinder Singh, stopped the farmers about 200 meters away from Mr. Parkash’s residence.
Barricades were put at all the entry points to stop the farmers from going towards the Minister’s residence, said the farmers. Later, the farmers staged a sit-in on the road.
Addressing the protesters, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal claimed that the agitation against the anti-farm laws has now snowballed into a mass movement.
He said farmers were not averse to holding talks with the Centre if the invitation for the same comes from the Prime Minister’s Office. “We will not accept any leader from the Punjab BJP for talks, as we are boycotting them,” he said.
The Punjab unit of the BJP had constituted an eight-member committee to reach out to farmers to apprise them of the benefits of the new laws. Farmers have expressed apprehension that the Centre’s farm reforms would pave way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates.
President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the three contentious Bills — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and the Farm Services Bill and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.