On August 20, farmers in Punjab initiated an indefinite agitation in Jalandhar and blocked train movement on Ludhiana-Jammu and Ludhiana-Amritsar routes. Notably, the current agitation is not due to the three Agriculture laws that were enacted in September last year, but it is due to the dues of over 200 crore that has not been paid by the Congress-led Punjab government. The agitating farmers have demanded to increase sugarcane prices from Rs.310/quintal to Rs.358/quintal and clear pending dues. The agitation is backed by 32 farmer unions.
Each time Sikh Protestors of Punjab block Train routes thousands of Lives and Livelihoods of Jammu get affected.— Aashish (@kashmiriRefuge) August 22, 2021
Hindu Yatris if Mata Vaishno Devi are now crying and cursing Kisaan aandolan. Listen to this https://t.co/xboXTpaHmQ pic.twitter.com/rvPc9iTNth
News agency PTI quoted Northern Railways officials saying, “A total of 40 trains were cancelled since Friday.” He further added that some trains were rerouted to different routes on Friday. However, due to heavy rainfall in Delhi, twenty trains bound for Jammu were further cancelled, which would be scheduled later. “Some trains scheduled later in the day are likely to leave the Jammu station for their destinations.” On Saturday, Northern Railway tweeted that over 100 trains were affected due to agitation.
19 more trains scheduled to commence journey on 21.08.21 after 16:OO hrs, have been cancelled due to Kisan Agitation in Punjab. pic.twitter.com/3W0TXZmkAG— Northern Railway (@RailwayNorthern) August 21, 2021
Thousands of passengers stranded in Jammu
Thousands of passengers from Uttar Pradesh and other states were stranded in Jammu. Reports suggest that initially, they were unable to get any information from the railway authorities that led to a spike in demand for other modes of transport. Seeing the desperation of the tourists and pilgrims, the local tour and bus operators reportedly increased the fair price by several folds.
‘It’s worse than Taliban’
Several local news channels interviewed the stranded passengers and showed their ordeal. On passenger who almost broke down into tears on camera said that the situation was worse than Taliban at the station. “In Afghanistan, at least attempts are being made to evacuate the Indians, but here were are stranded with no information, money, food or shelter,” the passenger from Uttar Pradesh said who was visiting Mata Vaishno Devi temple with family. He added that whenever farmers protest against the government, it is the public that faces the problems.
Several passengers complained that the local tour operators had doubled the fair charges. Another passenger blamed the government for the chaos and said that there were no representatives of the government at the station to tell them if they were planning anything to ensure a safe journey for the stranded passengers back to their home states.
‘We will miss the festival’
Some passengers were seen worried about missing Rakshabandhan. “We are stranded here. Our children are alone. I do not know if we will be able to make it before the festival,” said a passenger from UP. Notably, there was confusion on the reason for the agitation and blockade among the local media and passengers. They kept repeating that it is because of the ongoing agitation against the laws, but in reality, it is because of the unpaid dues from the Punjab government.
‘We are out of funds’
Several passengers claimed that they were travelling on a strict budget and such problems have put them in a problematic situation as they are out of funds. “They are asking for thousands of rupees to take us to Delhi. Then we have to arrange for transport to Balia. We do not have that much money,” said a passenger from UP.
‘Public will stop supporting the farmers’
In an interview with JK Media, a passenger said that if farmers keep causing trouble for the general public, they will stop supporting them. “It will cause a problem for farmers. The public will start to believe what they are doing is wrong. If you cause trouble for the general public, how will they support you?” he asked.