A day after President Ram Nath Kovind turned down a meeting to discuss the new farm laws in Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Congress MLAs are likely to protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar today.
The site of protest – which is essentially against the suspension of goods trains to Punjab amid farmers’ agitation against the three newly enacted farm laws by the Centre – has been changed from Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial Raj Ghat in view of “security restrictions”.
The decision was announced by Mr Singh’s media advisor on Twitter this morning. “The Chief Minister will now lead dharna of Punjab MLAs at Jantar Mantar, where he will reach at 12:15 pm, after paying his respects to Father of the Nation (Mahatma Gandhi) at Raj Ghat,” Raveen Thukral tweeted.
Hours later, Amarinder Singh confirmed he was on his way to Delhi and that he would first “pay his respects to Mahatma Gandhi ji at Raj Ghat”. We will highlight the issues of our farmers and seek immediate restoration of goods trains to Punjab by the Centre, he tweeted.
The Railway Ministry suspended goods train services to Punjab citing concerns over security of its “men and material” in view of the farmers “rail roko” protest.
The suspension, however, came as farmers scaled down their protests after the state assembly passed three bills on October 20 to counter the Centre’s farm laws.
These bills are yet to be cleared by Governor Virendra Pal Singh Badnore.
With the goods train services hit, Punjab is now staring at an acute shortage of essential good, including coal for its power plants. Three of the state’s five private power plants have shut down and two electricity generating units have nearly run out of coal.
Supply of urea for the Rabi or winter crops has also been hit, which has angered the farmers again. Punjab, which gets urea through trains from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states, is now getting it through trucks from Ambala and Dabwali, but it raises transportation cost significantly.
According to the officials, Punjab needs 14.50 lakh tonnes of urea for the Rabi season, but only about 75,000 tonnes is available in the state.