15-day window fine, but clearing backlog will take months: Punjab industry
At a time the industry in the state wants to literally fly out of its current situation towards recovery and normalcy, the resumption of goods trains, though a breather, only highlights that it will be a long, hard clawback for all stakeholders. The sheer quantity of backlog to be cleared and uncertainty over what happens after 15 days, if no permanent solution is found to end the farmers’ stir, are adding to the disquiet among owners.
Thousands of containers with export material are still stocked at dry ports in Ludhiana, while an even larger number of containers (around 8,000) with import material are stuck in transit. Officials at dry ports in the financial capital of the state have seen a steep fall in Exim (export-import) business for the past two months. Officials say it will take at least a month for the situation to stabilise.
Dry Ports in Ludhiana’s Dhandari Kalan, Sahnewal, Focal Point and Kila Raipur account for 95% of logistics business in the region. The logistics business itself has shrunk by 50% over the past two months.
At the Gateway Rail Freight Ltd (GRFL) in Sahnewal, which accounts for the maximum share of business, by volume, among the Exims, approximately 1,000 containers for exports continue to be stranded, while another 2,800 containers carrying import material are stuck in transit.
“A larger number of containers have been transported by road after exporters lifted from dry ports, considering the uncertainty over resumption of train services. This added to their costs, while also leading to loss of clientele. This was another major setback for the local industry,” said Rajeev Sharma, terminal head, ICD Gateway Rail Freight Limited, Sahnewal. ICD stands for Inland Container Depot.
“Manufacturers are ordering extra, fearing that trains will again be stopped after 15 days. The industry has suffered enough. The government should think of saving the industry and not just farmers,” said Rahul Verma, owner of a dyeing unit.
Badish Jindal, president, All Industries and Trade Forum, said the industry had suffered losses in crores of rupees and the government should clarify its stand. “The government should clear the uncertainty. It will take months for the situation to return to normalcy as imports are stuck and it will take months for the already stocked containers to clear. The focus should be to clear the backlog and run a greater number of goods trains over passenger trains.”
Onkar Singh Pahwa, CMD of Avon Cycles, said the resumption of goods trains, was great, but there was lot of fear and panic in industrialists. “I hope goods trains run smoothly now without any hurdle,” he added.