Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday sought personal intervention of Railways Minister Piyush Goyal for the restoration of freight movement, which remained suspended even after the farmers’ decision to partially lift their blockade.
The Chief Minister spoke to the Minister in the light of the decision of the Railways to extend the ban on movement of goods trains for another four days till October 29.
The decision to discontinue freight movement in Punjab, subsequent to the 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, Amarinder Singh had written 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 and Kashmir and Leh and Ladakh will also face a 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 the partial resumption of services with withdrawal of their blockade from October 22.
However, after the restoration of movement of freight trains on October 23, the Railways had unilaterally stopped movement of all freight trains in Punjab, Amarinder Singh pointed out in his letter to Goyal.
“There is now no plausible reason to stop freight operations in and through Punjab,” he said, adding 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 of the 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 mainline 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 there was no justification for the continued ban by the Railways on movement of goods trains in Punjab.
Besides the shortage of essential commodities, the state also needs to urgently lift food stocks from warehouses to make way for more grain, she added.