Rs 1,200 crore losses amid protest along tracks in Punjab, says railways
Amid tussle between the Centre and the Punjab state government over allowing the passage of trains in the state, the Indian Railways has claimed losses of nearly Rs 1,200 crore in freight revenue with more than 2,225 goods trains suspended and 1,350 passenger trains cancelled and diverted.
Trains have been suspended in the state for over a month from September 25 due to the agitation over farm bills, cleared by the Centre during the monsoon session of Parliament.
According to railways’ data, nearly 70 trains are affected per day, in total 1,373 passenger trains have had to be cancelled and diverted leading to losses of Rs 45 crore due to cancellation of the passenger trains.
Protests along railway tracks in Punjab are currently still underway in 32 places due to which train movement remains suspended, said the railway ministry on Wednesday.
“Agitators have continued dharna at platforms/near railway tracks. Train movement again suspended due to operational and safety considerations as agitators have suddenly stopped some train movements and sporadic blockade continued at various places like especially around Jandiala, Nabha, Talwandi Sabo and Bathinda,” a railway ministry spokesperson said.
“All passenger trains passing through the state of Punjab have been adversely impacted too. Till date more than 1,350 passenger trains have been cancelled, diverted or short terminated. This has caused tremendous inconvenience to travellers in Covid times,” he added.
According to the Centre, all inward and outward goods transportation, including essential commodities, has adversely been affected in the northern states and Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh
According to the railway ministry, a number of freight trains, including loaded good trains, remain stuck due to the suspension for nearly 15-20 days.
“Many freight customers, after having suffered business losses, are getting diverted to other modes of transportation. Outward loading too has been affected from the Punjab area. Movement of foodgrain, container, automobile, cement, pet coke, fertilizer, etc has taken a hit; average loss of loading per day in Punjab is 40 rakes per day,” the ministry spokesperson said.
“Inward traffic to Punjab has been affected (Outward from other than Punjab Area) and now container, cement, gypsum, fertilizer, POL, etc, are not being able to reach key locations in Punjab. Over all, the average loss per day is about 30 rakes per day,” he added.
The Centre’s statement also comes on the day the Punjab CM led a relay dharna of MLAs at Delhi’s Rajghat after the President declined to give time for a meeting. The CM claimed to have sought time “to highlight the state’s power crisis and critical essential supplies situation” amid tussle with the Centre over resumption of trains.
Railway minister Piyush Goyal on October 26, had written to chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, seeking Punjab government’s assurance of the safety of trains and their crew members to restore freight services, hours after the CM asked him to intervene in resuming the same.
Goyal, in his letter, had alleged sporadic obstruction of tracks was still continuing at many places, especially around Amritsar and outside the power plants at Naba and Talwandi Saboo, and also outside the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) silo at Moga. HT has reviewed the letter.
Goyal also said some of the freight trains and empty coaching rakes were obstructed again on October 23 after which railway drivers and guards refused to operate trains in Punjab unless they are assured that trains will not be obstructed.
The Punjab chief minister on Monday also wrote an open letter to BJP president JP Nadda, seeking intervention to stop the suspension of goods trains by the railways. “What is needed at this critical moment is for all of us to put aside any temptations we may be harbouring to promote our political interests,” the Punjab CM wrote.
Earlier in October, CM Singh had appealed to farmers to relax their ongoing ‘Rail Roko’ protest to allow goods trains to pass-through. He had, however, reiterated his government’s support to the farmers in their fight against the farm reform laws.