In a move that may bring relief to the state facing an acute shortage of essential supplies, Punjab farmer bodies protesting against the Centre’s farm laws on Saturday decided to lift their blockade of passenger trains for 15 days from Monday.
However, the farmer bodies said they will again block the rail tracks if the government failed to resolve their issues.
The train services have remained suspended in the state since September 24, when farmers launched their “rail roko” agitation against the Centre’s recently enacted agriculture-related laws.
Earlier, farmers had allowed freight trains but the Railways refused to resume these, saying it would either operate both freight and passenger trains or none.
The decision to lift the blockade of passenger trains came after a meeting of farmer leaders with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
“We have decided to allow passenger trains from November 23 evening,” said Darshan Pal, president of the Krantikari Kisan Union.
The Punjab CM too welcomed the decision.
“Had a fruitful meeting with Kisan Unions. Happy to share that starting 23rd Nov night, Kisan Unions have decided to end rail blockades for 15 days. I welcome this step since it will restore normalcy to our economy. I urge Central Govt to resume rail services to Punjab forthwith,” tweeted Amarinder.
Had a fruitful meeting with Kisan Unions. Happy to share that starting 23rd Nov night, Kisan Unions have decided to end rail blockades for 15 days. I welcome this step since it will restore normalcy to our economy. I urge Central Govt to resume rail services to Punjab forthwith. pic.twitter.com/shmIZPHFR0— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) November 21, 2020
"Punjab farmers to completely lift their rail blockade from Monday (November 23) to allow all goods and passenger trains, in response to impassioned appeal by the chief minister at a meeting with Kisan Unions," tweeted Raveen Thukral, media advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister.
BREAKING: Punjab farmers to completely lift their rail blockade from Monday (November 23) to allow all goods & passenger trains, in response to impassioned appeal by CM @capt_amarinder at meeting with Kisan Unions.— Raveen Thukral (@RT_MediaAdvPbCM) November 21, 2020
Before meeting the Chief Minister, farmers' organisations held their own meeting to deliberate the rail blockade issue.
The farmers' organisation, that had resorted to ''rail roko'' agitation from September 24 over the farm laws, had already agreed to allow goods trains to run in the state, besides clearing rail tracks and vacating platforms. But the deadlock between the protesting farmers and the Railways continued over the resumption of trains.
The farmers' bodies had maintained that they would consider allowing passenger trains to run in the state if the Centre starts running goods trains first. However, the Railways had refused to resume goods trains, saying it would either operate both freight and passenger trains or none.
The Railways has maintained that it needs full guarantee from the state government that no trains will be disrupted and both passenger and freight trains would be allowed to operate.
The farmers' bodies were also under pressure from the industries which have seen a loss of about Rs 30,000 crore because of the suspension of goods trains in the state.
Halting of goods trains has also hit the supplies of fertilizers for the agriculture sector, coal for thermal power plants and supply of gunny bags for paddy procurement.