Monday, October 25, 2021

President declines Punjab CM’s meeting request on goods train issue, MLAs to sit on dharna at Delhi’s Rajghat

With the President of India not giving time for a meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced that he will lead a relay dharna of MLAs at Delhi’s Rajghat tomorrow to highlight the state’s power crisis and critical essential supplies situation amid the Centre’s adamant refusal to allow movement of goods trains.

As the crisis triggered by the suspension of goods trains aggravated further in the state, resulting in complete shut-down of all power plants as well as curtailment of agricultural and vegetables supplies, the Chief Minister said he had decided to hold a symbolic relay dharna at Rajghat to bring the state’s grim situation to the Centre’s notice. Since Section 144 was in place in Delhi, MLAs will go from Punjab Bhawan to the ‘samadhi’ of the Father of the Nation in batches of four only, he said, adding that he will lead the first batch at 10.30 a.m.

Captain Amarinder reiterated his appeal to MLAs of other Punjab parties to also join the dharnas in the interest of the state, which was facing a dire situation at present with the last of the private power plants also shutting down today. GVK has announced it will close down operations at 3 p.m. today since coal stocks had complete run out. The public and other private power plants in the state had already shut down earlier.

The Chief Minister said the situation on the ground was grim as the state had run out of coal, urea/DAP and other essential supplies due to the decision of the Railways not to ply goods trains even after the farmers eased their blockade to allow such movement. With its bid for power purchase not cleared for today, the state was facing extreme power shortage, all agricultural and vegetable supplies had been curtailed, and high loss feeders power supply had been cut, he said, adding that the people of Punjab were staring at a dark festival season.

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Further, the continued and inexplicable suspension of the goods trains by the Railways was also having serious consequences for other states such as Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, he pointed out, reiterating his warning of the armed forces becoming sitting ducks for the enemies if they do not get their essential supplies before snow sets in.

Soon after the Vidhan Sabha session, in which all parties had unanimously resolved to seek time from the President for November 4 (or any other suitable date) to seek his intervention on the Farm Bills issue, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) had, on October 21, sent a letter to Rashtrapati Bhavan seeking a meeting. A reminder was subsequently sent on October 29, in response to which the CMO received a DO letter yesterday rejecting the request for a meeting on grounds of the State Amendment Bills still pending with the Governor for consideration. Subsequently, the CMO sent another letter yesterday itself, stating that the Chief Minister and other MLAs needed time to bring to the President’s notice the situation on the ground and to seek his intervention for resolution of the issues that have cropped up. However, the President’s Office responded saying “the request cannot be accepted at this juncture for reasons cited earlier.”

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Expressing concern over the development, the Chief Minister said as far as the State Amendment Bills, introduced under Article 254 (ii) were concerned, the Governor’s role was limited to forwarding the same to the President in accordance with the Constitutional provisions. In any case, as the letter from his office had made it clear, that was not the only issue on which the state needed the President’s intervention, he added.

The Chief Minister also took serious note of the refusal of two central ministers to meet Congress MPs from Punjab to discuss grave issues of importance to the state. The Ministers had sought time from Railways and Finance Ministers to discuss suspension of goods trains and non-payment of GST dues.

The central government’s stepmotherly treatment towards Punjab was pushing into a deep crisis, said Captain Amarinder, terming the recent developments as against India’s Constitutionally mandated federal character. The situation, if not checked, could snowball into a major catastrophe and spell doom for the nation, whose foundations were built on the ethos of democratic federalism, he warned.

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