Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has sought the personal intervention of Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal for the immediate restoration of freight movement, which remains suspended in and through the state even after the farmers’ decision to partially lift their blockade.
The Chief Minister spoke to the Union Minister on Monday in the light of the decision of the Railways to extend the ban on movement of goods trains, initially imposed for two days (on October 24 and 25), for another four days.
The decision of the Railways to discontinue freight movement in Punjab subsequent to partial success of negotiations with the farmers had negated the efforts of the State so far, said the Chief Minister, warning that the move may, in fact, further provoke the agitated farmers protesting against the Centre’s farm laws.
Citing the grave impact of the non-restoration of freight traffic by the Railways, the Chief Minister also wrote to Goyal expressing serious concern that if the freight movement is not started immediately, “not only Punjab will face serious disruption in economic activities and shortage of essential supplies, but Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Leh & Ladakh will also face serious economic crisis.” He cited various requests received by the state government from different quarters, including Central Ministries and Departments, for immediate resumption of freight movement through Punjab.
Earlier, the state government, through constant engagement in negotiations with the Kisan Unions, had succeeded in convincing them to allow partial resumption of services with withdrawal of their blockade from October 22. However, after restoration of movement of freight trains on October 23, the Railways had unilaterally stopped movement of all freight trains in Punjab, Captain Amarinder pointed out in his DO letter to Goyal.
Incidentally, pointed out the Chief Minister, freight trains had continued almost uninterruptedly throughout the lockdown period even when the passenger trains operations were completely stopped. “There is now no plausible reason to stop freight operations in and through Punjab,” he said, adding that his government was also continuing with its efforts to persuade the protesting farmers to restore the passenger railway traffic also.
Later, on the Chief Minister’s directives, Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan also spoke to the Chairman, Railway Board, and noted that the Chief Minister had set up a committee of three ministers to discuss complete lifting of their `Rail Roko’ blockade to allow even passenger trains. However, as far as goods trains are concerned, no main line is blocked for goods trains as of date and only a single track that goes and ends at the private thermal plant Talwandi Sabo is currently blocked, she pointed out, adding that there was no justification for the continued ban by the Railways on movement of goods trains in Punjab, thus depriving the state of critical supplies, including coal, urea etc. Besides shortage of the essential commodities, the state also needs to urgently lift food stocks from godowns to make way for more grains.