New Delhi (TIP): The “rail roko” call given by farmers’ bodies impacted rail movement in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan on Thursday, February 18, with reports of sporadic blockades reported from other parts of the country. Railway officials said there was negligible impact of the strike even as some trains were stopped as a precautionary measure. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a group of about 40 farmers’ bodies protesting against three new farm laws, had given a call for a four-hour nationwide rail blockade from noon till 4pm. According to farmers’ bodies, the strike received massive support across the country with trains being stopped. “In many places trains were not stopped for long to prevent inconvenience to passengers,” the All India Kisan Sabha said in a statement.
In Punjab and Haryana, farmers at several places squatted on railway tracks, which led to disruptions. Protests were also staged at some places in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
In Punjab, trains passing through rural areas were stopped at several places, especially in agriculture belts of Malwa and Doaba areas. In several places, tea and snacks were offered to stranded passengers. Some trains coming into Punjab were stopped at Jammu, officials said. In Haryana too, hundreds of farmers, including women, peacefully participated in the agitation at multiple locations in Dadri, Bhiwani, Jind, Sonepat, Rohtak, Hisar and Fatehabad, said Dayanand Punia, state secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha. Due to the blockade, the busy Delhi-Ambala-Amritsar railway track was affected, leading to the diversion of six trains and the stoppage of many others.
The affected trains waiting at various railway stations were allowed to commence their journeys after farmers lifted the blockade at 4pm.
In Rajasthan, officials said the Rewari-Sri Ganganagar special train was the only one cancelled due to the agitation, while a few others were delayed. Most of the protests were in western Rajasthan. “The train movement remained almost unaffected. There were reports of minor blockade on two of our routes. However, it was ensured that the issue is addressed. Hence, train movement remained unaffected,” said Ajit Kumar Singh, chief public relation officer (CPRO), North Central Railways — the zone which covers a large part of Uttar Pradesh.
In Bihar, trains were blocked in Patna-Buxar, Gaya-Patna, Mokama-Barauni, Siwan-Chhapra, Kiul-Gaya, Muzaffarpur-Samastipur, Bhagalpur-Jamalpur and Patna-Darbhanga stretches. Supporters of the CPI (ML), the RJD and the JAP took part in the agitation. Railway officials said that around 20 trains were affected by the agitation.
The protest saw a mixed response in Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with some sporadic protests by Left organisations. Some members of Left farmers’ bodies were arrested in Madhya Pradesh for trying to disrupt rail traffic. No disruption in rail traffic was reported from Goa, Kerala and north-eastern states.
“Majority of the zones have reported not a single case of any stoppage of train by the agitators. Few trains were stopped in some areas of some railway zones, but now train operation is normal and trains are being operated smoothly,” said a railway spokesperson. The railways deployed 20 additional companies of the Railway Protection Special Force across the country.
Thousands of farmers have been camping at Delhi’s borders since November last year, seeking a repeal of the new farm laws, which they say will erode their bargaining power, weaken a system of assured prices, and leave them vulnerable to exploitation by big agri businesses.
The government has maintained that the laws aim to ease restrictions on farm trade by setting up free markets, allow traders to stockpile large stocks of food for future sales and lay down a framework for contract farming.