Indian Railways has lost approximately Rs.500 crores in revenues due to the ‘Rail Roko’ agitation in Punjab. All Industries and Trade Forum president Badish Jindal said that the overall loss the state’s businesses have incurred is close to Rs.5000 crore as ‘farmers’ continue to block railway lines. From the steel industry to essential commodities, Punjab is facing a shortage of almost everything. Due to the inaction of the government of Punjab, power stations are unable to get coal for power generation leading to a severe shortage across the state.
High Court slams Punjab govt for failing to follow the rule of law
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has expressed its displeasure on the failure of the Punjab government to clear the railway tracks. The High Court had said on 29th October that the Punjab government is unable to handle law and order. The High Court had even stated that in case the government fails to get the tracks cleared, it will issue an order and write that the Punjab government has failed to follow the constitution.
Additional Solicitor General Satyapal Jain, who was appearing for the centre, informed the court that the Punjab government is trying to blame the centre for not letting goods trains in the state. Chief Minister Amrinder Singh wrote to Union Minister Piyush Goyal, demanding resumption of goods and passenger trains in the state.
Jain said that the Punjab government is claimed the tracks are empty, but the trains are being intercepted and searched at several places. High Court had directed the Punjab government and centre to find a solution to the problem at the earliest.
Punjab Government hinted blame on Centre for lack of coal for power generation
In a social media post, the Punjab government said, “Punjab runs out of power as coal stocks dry up completely due to goods trains’ suspension. Consumers brace for massive power cuts as the last thermal power plant shuts down operations.” The post was published on Facebook and now-locked Twitter account of the Punjab government. During his statement in the assembly, Singh said PSPCL is making daily payments in advance to Northern Grid at Rs.12.23 per unit as well as an unscheduled interchange charge of Rs 8.73 as the state is unable to get coal for the power stations.
Netizens quickly refuted the Punjab government’s claim and urged Captain Amrinder to get the Railway Tracks cleared instead of blaming Indian Railways.
Before blaming Railways, please ask farmers to clear tracks to ensure goods movement. They hv blocked tracks at Moga, Firojpur, Faridkot, Kartarpur, etc.— Ankur Singh (@iAnkurSingh) November 3, 2020
Can’t you see people are on tracks in front of Nabha power plant?
Even HC said you are not able to run the state. pic.twitter.com/rM2EdqdeNR
Despite such blockade of @RailMinIndia tracks as shown by @IndianExpress today do you still claim lines are clear for running of Goods trains? Looks field officers giving misleading information @PiyushGoyal @AmitShah @narendramodi @drmumb @drmfzr Public Suffers pic.twitter.com/Dw0AJyHP37— AKM (@AKAK1959) November 4, 2020
As per reports, agitators are blocking railway services in Jandiala, Jagraon, Phillaur, Muktsar, Kartarpur, Fazilka, Romana Albel Singh, Gangsar Jaito, Faridkot, Firozpur, Buttari, Moga, and Makhu. At every location, around 10 to 20 agitators are blocking the tracks. They have put up tents in several locations to ensure the complete blockade of the tracks.
Piyush Goyal had requested the Punjab government to clear tracks
On 26th October, in reply to Captain Amrinder’s demand to restart goods and passenger trains in Punjab, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal had urged the Punjab government to ensure full security, clear the track of agitators for the complete resumption of the services, and guarantee security for the free run of all trains.
Goyal, in a letter to the Punjab CM, had said that Railways had commenced freight operations on 23rd October, but it was stopped as sporadic blockade of tracks continued. Agitators are still outside the powerhouses and railway stations, disrupting the smooth services. “Without total withdrawal of the blockade, our staffs, particularly Loco Pilots and Guards are not confident of running trains,” he further said. There were reports of Loco Pilots being assaulted by the agitators as well.
Goyal also mentioned that over 200 rakes of freight were stranded in Punjab due to the agitations.
Train services suspended due to Rail Roko agitation over farmers bills
The Rail Roko agitations in Punjab started in September, after which Railways suspended its services in the state stating security reasons. The services were resumed for a short span but again suspended as the government of Punjab failed to get the tracks cleared. In September, the Central government announced three new bills for the agriculture industry. These bills are aimed to remove the middlemen from the sale and purchase of the produce. However, opposition parties tried to paint the bills as an attempt to remove Minimum Selling Price (MSP) and alleged that the Modi government brought these bills to facilitate large players in the agriculture business. Captain Amrinder had tabled a resolution to bypass the new regulations.