Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 6
Train services to Punjab are unlikely to resume anytime soon, with the Centre digging its heels on resuming train services only if passenger trains are also allowed safe passage through Punjab, along with the goods services trains.
The farmer unions, however, have only agreed to let the goods trains pass through, as the dharnas on tracks—two by Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) were lifted and one by Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee was shifted from the main railway tracks to Jandiala.
Till the afternoon, as the state government representatives clinched the deal with the two above mentioned organisations, it was believed that the dharna would be lifted soon, leading to the resumption of goods train services to the state.
This would have ensured that power production in the two private thermal plants at Rajpura and Banawali in Mansa, would also start.
However, as negotiations between the Chairman Railway Board and Chief Secretary Punjab continued, the former made it clear that it would only be possible to resume services if all categories of trains were allowed to move.
A meeting was also held between DGP Law and Order, Ishwar Singh and senior officers of Railway Police from Ambala and Ferozepur divisions today, where the latter reiterated that it was only after the access for passage of passenger trains was assured by the state government, the train services would be resumed.
Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan told The Tribune that the state government was in touch with the Chairman Railway Board and they were trying to find an early resolution.
It was after three-day long negotiations with the two unions that the state government today managed to convince the unions to lift the rail blockades.
Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), told The Tribune that they had lifted their dharnas from the railway tracks linking the main railway lines to the private thermal plants at Rajpura and Banawali (Mansa) at 4 pm today.
“The farmers will, however, not stop their agitation… but simply shift it from the tracks to the sides of the railway lines,” he said.
The two power plants have not been supplying power to the state for the past 20 days. A Venu Prasad, Managing Director, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited, said the two power plants had not been able to generate power and the issue of giving them fixed charges for this period is being examined, according to the terms of their agreement.
The suspension of railway services has caused massive losses, with manufactured industrial goods stuck in the state and industry unable to get the raw material from outside.
Farming operations, too, have been hit as the urea and DAP required for the next wheat sowing season has not been transported to the state.
Even the food grain stocks in the state, procured for FCI have not been transported out, leaving little space for the new paddy to be stored.
The protests, as part of the Rail Roko agitation started by farmers, have been going on for 37 days now. The farmers are protesting against the three farm laws enacted by the BJP led NDA government at the Centre in September.
Railways says awaits track clearance in Punjab
The Railways on Friday said it awaits agitators to clear tracks to resume operations in Punjab. Senior officials of the Railways and Punjab Government have discussed the matter since morning in an attempt to resolve it.
So far 22 spots are such where agitators remain on the tracks or within the circulating area of the railway stations, said Railway Board Chairman and CEO VK Yadav at a virtual press conference.
There have been widespread protests in Punjab and Haryana against the farm-related Bills cleared by Parliament in September.
We have started maintenance of tracks and now await a security clearance from the state government, Yadav said, adding, “We can operate all goods and passenger trains but await the blockage to end.”
Trains cannot run selectively, the Railways was looking to resume freight and passenger operations, said Yadav.
Sources said the indications are that the state government was keen on allowing freight trains. The Railways wants to resume all operations that would include trains meant to pick up food grains.
The Director General Railway Protection Force (RPF) Arun Kumar said tracks are still blocked at other places and agitators are in circulating area and can come on the tracks anytime. He said he was in touch with the DGP of Punjab.
Yadav said tracks have to be inspected and the Railways had an overbooking in passenger trains.