More than 130 locations across northern India, especially Punjab and Haryana, were affected Monday due to the ‘rail roko’ protest called by agitating farmers demanding the dismissal and arrest of Union minister Ajay Mishra in connection with the violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri, the Railways has said.
The blockades affected the schedules of 50 trains since morning, a Northern Railway spokesman said.
“The affected locations are mostly in Ferozepur division in Punjab and Ambala division in Haryana. The Moradabad and Lucknow divisions in Uttar Pradesh are normal,” he said. Among the trains affected were Shatabdi Express to Katra and Amritsar and the Vande Bharat Express to Katra.
A North Western Railway spokesman said areas in the Bikaner division, like Bhiwadi, Bathinda, Hanumangarh, are affected for which a couple of trains had to be cancelled, about a dozen short-terminated one diverted.
Farmers sit on railway track at Raipur Kalan village in Chandigarh (Express photo by Jaipal Singh)
The Allahabad-based North Central Railway said its train services remained unaffected so far.
However, despite these disruptions, the situation now is a far cry from last year’s when train services to and from Punjab remained suspended for two months due to the agitation leading to an unprecedented crisis.
The Ambala division is critical to train services in northern India as the Ambala Cantonment Junction in Haryana acts as the main gateway to Punjab for the broad-gauge line. (Express photo/Rana Simranjeet Singh)
All train services were halted in Punjab on September 24, 2020. By November 6, some 2,200 goods trains and over 1,300 passenger trains were either diverted or cancelled, with the total loss to the Railways estimated at around Rs 1,300 crore, the Railways had said.
The Ambala division is critical to train services in northern India as the Ambala Cantonment Junction in Haryana acts as the main gateway to Punjab for the broad-gauge line. From Ambala, the broad-gauge line goes into the heart of Punjab touching important cities of Ludhiana, Jalandhar and up to Amritsar. This runs almost parallel to the old Grand Trunk Road, emulating a historical pattern of movement of commerce, men and material.
The Allahabad-based North Central Railway said its train services remained unaffected so far. (Express photo/Rana Simranjeet Singh)
The rail roko call was given by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body for farmers’ unions spearheading the protest against farm laws since last year
In a statement, the SKM said “protests will only be intensified until justice is secured” in the Lakhimpur Kheri case. The SKM said during the ‘rail roko’ protest, all train traffic will be stopped for six hours from 10 am till 4 pm on Monday.
SKM leaders from Haryana said that the call for protest was met with an encouraging response in the state, with farmers sitting on the railway tracks from 10 am to 4 pm.
BKU (Chaduni) spokesperson Rakesh Bains told The Indian Express that farmers blocked railway tracks in Sonipat, Ambala, Kurukshera, Hisar, Jind, Karnal, Kaithal, Bhiwani, Dadri, Fatehabad, Sirsa, Yamunanagar and Rewari. “We wanted to express our anguish over the incident of violence at Lakhimpur Kheri. But we also tried to ensure that railway passengers face the least possible inconvenience. We made arrangements for langer (community food), snacks and tea for the passengers who were stuck due to the agitation,” Bains said.
Bains said that two trains were also forced to halt at Kurukshetra. Another farmer leader said that the railway tracks were blocked at three places in Panipat district.
BKU leader Azad Palwa said that in Jind district, railway tracks were blocked at five places—Narwana, Uchana, Barsola, Julana and Jind. “Two freight trains were stopped on the Delhi-Bathinda railway track at Uchana. Protests were held in all the districts,” he said.