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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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Madhya Pradesh Waives off $5.3Bn in Farm Debt

The western state of Maharashtra and northern state of Uttar Pradesh, both ruled by the BJP, announced similar loan waivers last year.

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India, farmers, farm
Farmers march towards the parliament house during a rally to protest soaring farm operating costs and plunging prices of their produce, in New Delhi, India. VOA

The new leader of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is to waive up to $5.3 billion of farm loans, becoming the latest area to offer relief ahead of a national election next year as farmers reel from losses caused by falling crop prices.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party lost the central state to Congress last week dealing Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014 and boosting the opposition ahead of the vote next year.

Congress leader Kamal Nath, who became chief minister of the state on Monday, decided to write off farmers’ loans up to 200,000 rupees, according to a notification.

farmers, Bank
Police try to stop farmers during a protest demanding a better price for their produce on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. VOA

Protests on the rise

Farmers’ protests have been rising in past months due to the fall in crop prices and a rise in the cost of diesel and fertilizer.

Nearly 3.4 million farmers will benefit from the loan waiver, which is likely to cost between 350 billion rupees ($4.9 billion) to 380 billion rupees ($5.3 billion), Rajesh Rajora, the state’s principal secretary for agriculture, told Reuters.

Also Read: Arvind Kejriwal Accuses Modi Government of Betraying Farmers

The western state of Maharashtra and northern state of Uttar Pradesh, both ruled by the BJP, announced similar loan waivers last year. (VOA)