New Delhi, November 5
The Punjab government has given an assurance that all blockades on rail premises by protesters will be cleared by Friday morning, Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav said on Thursday.
One blockade was removed on Wednesday. Fourteen of 31 blockades were removed by Thursday evening, he said.
Director General of Railway Protection Force Arun Kumar said the Punjab police chief has assured him that the state police was in talks with leaders of the agitating farm unions and the blockades would be removed on Friday.
Addressing a press briefing, Yadav said a joint team of Punjab government officials and RPF has been formed to conduct ground surveys in order to ascertain if it was safe to run trains.
“We have been assured by the Punjab government that all blockades will be removed by Friday morning. While one was removed yesterday, 14 of 31 blockades were removed on Thursday. Our maintenance teams are ready and as soon as tracks are under rail control, we will run trains,” he said.
Asked if a condition was laid down by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal linking the Central farm laws to the resumption of trains during a meeting with Congress leaders, Yadav, who was present in the meeting, denied the same.
“The minister was very clear in his stand. He said train services could resume only under one condition that all blockades are removed and we get the state government’s assurance of safety and security of the trains. He did not link the resumption of services to the farm bills in anyway,” the railway board chairman said.
The loss suffered by the national transporter due to the agitation in Punjab over the Central farm reform laws has already crossed an estimated Rs 1,200 crore as protests on train tracks continued.
According to data from the Railways over 2,225 freight rakes carrying vital commodities could not be operated till date due to the blockades caused by the protestors.
Around 1,350 trains have been forced to be cancelled or diverted, it said.
Train services in Punjab have been suspended since September 24 due farmers’ protests over the three farm bills passed in Parliament. While it had resumed for a few days in October, it was suspended again due to concerns over safety and security of train crew members.
Earlier, Punjab MPs Pratap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo met Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and requested him to restart rail services in the state, which have been stopped due to the farmers’ agitation.
The two Congress MPs in the Rajya Sabha said there has been no transportation of critical goods to ensure continued economic activities within the state.
Due to the suspension of freight services, Punjab is witnessing a shortage of diammonium phosphate (DAP) and urea fertilisers, which are essential for agriculture, they said.
The MPs said that the sowing season for rabi crops normally begins in November for harvest in April/May and the suspension of freight trains will further harm the farmers.
“We urge you to intervene in this matter. Freight operations by the Indian Railways must resume at the earliest otherwise the safety and security of Punjab as well as the Armed Forces and civilians living in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will be negatively impacted,” they said in a letter handed over to Goyal.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had also staged a dharna in the national capital along with all Congress MLAs and many MPs from Punjab, However, Bajwa and Dullo were not a part of the protest. — PTI