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Farmers’ protest hits coal trains

Farmers block railway tracks as part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s ‘rail roko’ protest demanding the dismissal and arrest of Union Minister Ajay Mishra in connection with the October 3 violence, in Lakhimpur Kheri, in Bahadurgarh, on October 18.   | Photo Credit: PTI

At least 10 goods trains carrying coal to power plants were stuck, and about 25 passenger trains cancelled, as farm unions under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha held a nationwide rail roko agitation on Monday.

Protesters squatted on rail tracks and hindered train movement to demand the immediate dismissal and arrest of Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra for his alleged involvement in the deaths of four farmers at Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh earlier this month.

“About 10 rakes were affected due to untimely rains and rail roko,” Power Ministry officials told The Hindu. They noted that despite the blockage, 290 coal rakes were loaded on Monday in comparison to 279 on the previous day. This comes at a time when the country is on the verge of a power crisis, with some power plants holding critically low reserve stocks of coal and some States already experiencing partial load-shedding.

Most rail disruptions were experienced in the Northern Zone, which saw about 150 locations affected by protests during the day. According to a Northern Railways spokesperson, the operations of 60 trains were impacted and 25 short distance passenger trains were cancelled. By 5 p.m., train services were resumed.

In other parts of the country, protesters blocked train movement for less than an hour or were prevented from squatting on rail tracks and held their protests on platforms or in front of stations instead. According to the Press Trust of India, an Eastern Railway spokesperson said four trains in West Bengal were delayed for about an hour, while 12 trains were delayed for about half an hour in Odisha.

According to farm unions, protesters blocked railway tracks at locations in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka and Telangana.

Protesters were detained at multiple locations in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, an SKM statement said.

There was heavy deployment of armed police personnel in a number of railway stations in Uttar Pradesh and several farmer leaders at the village level in the State were also put under preventive house arrest from midnight, according to the All India Kisan Sabha. “This is a gross violation of the constitutional right of the people for peaceful protest,” said AIKS president Ashok Dhawale, adding that the farmers movement was “determined to further expand and intensify the ongoing struggle till all the SKM demands are met with.”

In a statement from its core committee, the SKM called on the Central Government to “take moral responsibility” and sack Mr. Mishra “to ensure that the investigation is not impacted, and the real culprits and masterminds of the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre are arrested.”

(With inputs from PTI)

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 4:28:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/rail-roko-affects-130-locations-in-northern-railway-zone-hinder-running-of-50-trains/article37050905.ece

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