Chandigarh, Oct 29 (IANS) Farmers blocked railway traffic at nearly half a dozen places in Punjab Friday to protest slow paddy procurement and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal warned the central government of unrest if procurement norms were not relaxed immediately.
The farmers, who had called for a railway and road blockade Friday (Oct 29), are seeking relaxation of moisture and colour norms for procurement of their paddy and also a higher minimum support price (MSP).
Local and inter-state trains were stopped by farmers in Bathinda and Mansa districts. Rail traffic was affected in Rampura Phul, Mansa, Jakhal and other places.
Railway officials cancelled a few long-distance trains as the agitating farmers blocked tracks on the busy Ambala-Amritsar section.
The New Delhi-Amritsar Swarn Shatabdi was stopped by railway officials at Jalandhar railway station. The train was terminated there as farmers blocked the track ahead at Beas town, 40 km from Amritsar.
The Shan-e-Punjab Express between Delhi and Amritsar was also terminated at Ludhiana railway station. The Amritsar Flying Mail was cancelled at Amritsar itself, railway officials said. The Tata-Muri Express was also cancelled at Amritsar.
Seeking a prompt action on relaxation in the specifications regarding discoloration and moisture content for procurement of paddy, Badal Friday reiterated his request in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his direct intervention to resolve the issue without any further delay.
Badal said any failure to take immediate corrective and remedial action could pose a grave threat to the law and order situation in the days ahead as farmers were getting restive.
Badal, who also wrote to union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, said: ‘The centre must realise the plight of the farmers and should bail them out in this hour of crisis as the paddy has been affected for reasons beyond their control’.
The chief minister said he would have come personally to Delhi to apprise the central government of the plight of Punjab farmers, who alone contribute over 60 per cent of the country’s food grain production to the national kitty, but could not do so due to doctors’ advice against travelling. Badal was injured in a fall earlier this month.
The chief minister again requested for relaxation in the specifications on damage, discoloration and moisture content for procurement of paddy.
Badal demanded that the moisture specification should be increased from 17 to 20 percent and discoloration of paddy up to 10 percent.
He also apprised the prime minister and the agriculture minister that the PUSA-44 variety of paddy had started arriving in the grain markets of the state in large quantities and if norms were not relaxed immediately, procurement of the crop would become difficult.
He added that thundershowers across Punjab Oct 22 have aggravated the situation with dried up paddy lying at grain markets being exposed to rain and its moisture content going up.
Punjab and Haryana, India’s food grain states, have procured over 10 mn (100 lakh) tonnes of paddy this season, which started Oct 1.