Monday December 11, 2017
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Punjab farmers to continue stir as talks with Badal fail

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Chandigarh: The ongoing ‘rail roko’ agitation by Punjab farmers and farm labourers will continue, they announced on Monday as a meeting between their representatives and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and senior government functionaries failed to produce any result.

No conclusive breakthrough could be achieved as the government said it was not in a position to accept the demands of the 18 organisations of farmers and farm hands, government sources said after the meeting that lasted over four hours in the evening.

Sources said that Punjab government refused to accept the demand of farmers for considerable enhancement in compensation for losses due to whitefly pest attack on cotton crop.

After the meeting with representatives of the coordination committee of 18 farmer and farm labour unions here, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, however, reiterated that the Akali Dal-BJP alliance government was committed to the welfare of farmers and farm labourers in the state.

Senior Akali Dal leader and parliament member Prem Singh Chandumajra also told the media that the meeting was held in a “positive atmosphere”.

On the other hand, farmer leaders who attended the meeting left for another venue to discuss among themselves the issues raised with Badal and state government functionaries.

“We will discuss the issues and let you know later,” farmer leader Sukhdev Singh Khokriwala told the media at Punjab Bhawan here after the meeting.

The ‘rail roko’ (railway blockade) agitation by farmers in Punjab continued for the sixth day on Monday as farmers blocked rail traffic at several places in Amritsar, Moga, Mansa and other districts.

Over 800 trains, including the Samjhauta Express peace train between India and Pakistan, have been cancelled or diverted by railway authorities due to the ongoing agitation by farmers.

Thousands of passengers have been left stranded due to cancellation of trains. The loss to the railways and other agencies is said to be over Rs.100 crore in these six days.

Agitating farmers are demanding compensation of Rs.40,000 per acre for loss of cotton crop due to whitefly pest attack, purchase of basmati rice at minimum support price, and immediate release of payments to sugar cane growers.

(IANS)

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Punjab farmers end rail blockade, to protest against ministers

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Chandigarh: Punjab farmers demanding better compensation for losses due to whitefly pest attack on cotton crop ended on Tuesday the week-long rail blockade and decided to protest against state ministers.

After a meeting of eight farmers’ organisations here, the ‘rail roko’ (railway blockade) was called off on the seventh day. The protest had hit hundreds of trains.

“We have decided to end the rail roko. We will now ‘gherao’ Punjab ministers at their residences and other functions,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Jagmohan Singh said here.

The rail blockade had affected over 800 trains in Punjab over the past week, putting thousands of passengers to inconvenience.

The Monday meeting was held after talks between farmers’ leaders and the Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, on Monday failed to end the deadlock.

The government said it was not in a position to accept the demands of the agitating farmers, government sources said.

Badal reiterated that the Akali Dal-BJP alliance government was committed to the welfare of farmers and farm labourers.

Akali Dal leader and MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said the meeting was held in a “positive atmosphere”.

Over 800 trains, including the Samjhauta Express train between India and Pakistan, were cancelled or diverted due to the agitation by farmers.

Thousands of train passengers were stranded. The loss to the railways and other agencies is said to be over Rs.100 crore.

Agitating farmers are demanding compensation of Rs.40,000 per acre for loss of cotton crop, purchase of basmati rice at the minimum support price and immediate release of payments to sugarcane growers.

(IANS)

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Gurdaspur attack: Five killed as terror attack shatters Punjab calm

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Dinanagar: At least five people were killed and 10 injured when heavily-armed terrorists wearing army fatigues hijacked a car, drove down to this town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, peppered the bus stand with bullets and then stormed a police station — shattering two decades of calm in the state.

Authorities said that five people were killed in the terror attack, while unconfirmed reports said the toll may be higher.

“So far reports of five deaths including three civilians and two police personnel confirmed from Gurudaspur. Operation is still on,” tweeted Press Information Bureau in Delhi.

Three home guard personnel who were inside the police station were among those feared killed. Other victims were civilians, including a person inside an adjoining hospital.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that he had spoken to director general of Border Security Force (BSF) D.K. Pathak and instructed him to step up the vigil on India-Pakistan border in the wake of attack in Gurdaspur.

Special forces of the army and NSG as well as police commandos took up position around the Dinanagar police station.

This was the first major terror attack in Punjab following the assassination of then chief minister Beant Singh on August 31, 1995.

Monday’s attack began at 5.30 a.m. at Dinanagar town in Punjab’s frontier district of Gurdaspur, close to the India-Pakistan border and near the border with Jammu and Kashmir state.

A gun battle raged between the terrorists, holed up inside the Dinanagar police station, and security forces, including soldiers. Continuous sound of firing and lobbying of grenades could be heard even hours after the first shots were fired by the militants.

The police station, adjoining government hospital, residential quarters inside the police station and nearby private houses were quickly cordoned off by security forces.

Minister of state for home Kirren Rijiju told IANS in Delhi that “as of now there is no information regarding hostages being held. We are looking into it and once I get some more information, I will come out with it”.

The terrorists, numbering four, are believed to have come from Pakistan. They arrived in a Maruti 800 car which they had hijacked after firing at the driver and killing a person in a dhaba nearby. They also fired at people near the Dinanagar bus stand and then attacked the Dinanagar police station, located about 100 metres away.

Eyewitnesses said the terrorists fired on a bus going towards Jammu and later entered the police station.

“We were hit by a burst of gunfire suddenly. I was hit on the shoulder. They are firing indiscriminately every five minutes,” a Punjab police official, who was injured in the attack, told media as he was being taken to the hospital.

The town is about 15 km from the India-Pakistan border and 25 km from the border of Jammu and Kashmir state. It is about 235 km from Chandigarh.

Additional Director-General of Punjab Police, Dinkar Gupta, told media the “attack took the Dinanagar police by surprised”.

Army and police reinforcements were rushed to the spot.

Punjab Police sources said the incident indicated may be a suicide attack.

The attack took place just a day after Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal faced pro-Khalistan slogans while attending a function at Punjab University in Patiala.

In a related development, five live bombs were found on the Amritsar-Pathankot railway track.

The bombs were found by passersby on a bridge near Parmanand railway station on the Amritsar-Pathankot railway section, who informed security forces. Trains on the route were stopped immediately.

A major railway tragedy was averted as the bombs were carefully wired to the railway track at a small bridge near Parmanand railway station, five km from Dinanagar. A police spokesman told media that the army bomb disposal unit had defused the bombs.

A train, which was to pass on the railway track, was stopped just 200 metres from the spot where the bombs had been planted.

(IANS)

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Religion should not be misconstrued as communalism: Badal

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Patiala: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday said that religion should not be misconstrued as communalism and that people should refrain from identifying gurus, saints and seers on communal lines as they belong to the entire humanity.

“Religion should not be misconstrued as communalism as religion is just a way of life aimed at ensuring overall welfare of everybody. One should profess his own religion and should not hate the religion of others.”

“Punjab had suffered in the past as some people had divided the people on religious lines, which must be avoided,” Badal said while addressing a gathering here after installing Bhagwan Parshuram Chair for Indian literature and culture at Punjabi University here, 80 km from Chandigarh.

He claimed “some forces inimical to the progress of the state” were bent on disrupting its hard earned peace but asserted that he would not not allow such forces to succeed “till my last breath.”

The chief minister said that Punjab had suffered a lot due to “such conspiracies in the past”, but now the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance government was “keeping a strict vigil on the nefarious designs of all those people who were vary to the peace and progress of the state”.

“For their vested interests some people are actively working to bring black days back in the state but I assure you that they will not succeed till I am alive,” Badal added.

“People should refrain from identifying gurus, saints and seers on communal lines as they belong to the entire humanity. The Punjab government has been following the footsteps of great Sikh gurus to carve an egalitarian and secular society by observing days related with every community at state level functions,” he said.

“Unlike my predecessors who behaved like monarchs by maintaining a distance from the masses, I am always available to the people to serve them,” Badal said.

(IANS)