Amid the ongoing conflict between the Centre and Punjab over suspension of goods trains, withholding of Rural Development Fund (RDF) and non-payment of GST compensation, Congress MPs from Punjab have been camping in Delhi to meet the Union Railways, Finance and Prime Minister to apprise them of the situation but have not got any appointment.
The goods trains, suspended to the state since last week even after the farmers eased out the blockade on train tracks, have been affecting supplies. The coal supplies to thermal plants are cut, the fertiliser transport is affected, the foodgrain evacuation to other states is stopped and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had Sunday stated that even defence supplies were affected. The state has not got its GST compensation. The RDF too has been held for the paddy procurement season.
Amarinder has directed all the eight party MPs to meet Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar told The Indian Express that the MPs were not able to get appointment with anyone yet.
“They have talks with China. But not with their own state,” Jakhar said.
Punjab has been on a confrontational path with the Centre after the state Assembly passed four amendment Bills rejecting the Centre’s farm laws. The state’s farmers too have been blocking railway traffic to protest against the farm laws. Later, after the Assembly passed Bills, the farmers lifted Rail Roko. But the BKU (Ugrahan) has been laying siege to railway tracks leading to private thermal plants, following which the Centre suspended goods trains to Punjab.
Ravneet Bittu, Congress MP from Ludhiana, said he and his colleagues were camping in Delhi to take up the issue with the Union ministers, “But they have not met us. We have now written a letter to the PM seeking an appointment with him. Punjab is suffering and people are getting angry. There is no point in fanning their anger. It can take a problematic dimension,” Bittu warned.
Jakhar said he did not foresee the conflict ending soon, “It will drag on looking at the way they are behaving. This is a very adamant attitude. They will not budge from the farm laws. This is totally unacceptable.”
He said the state had an option left to knock at the doors of judiciary. “Look at the way the MPs are not getting time. If they do not want to talk to Congress, it is fine. But the PM should at least talk to the farmers. They have time for China,” he said.
He added that they banned Tik-Tok and other Chinese apps to teach a lesson to an enemy country. “And they banned trains to their own state. This is a new chapter in democracy. They are totally burying the federal structure.”
Losses due to suspension of goods trains
The state government, in its assessment of effect of suspension of goods trains, has stated that 60,000 bundles of bardana to be delivered to Punjab were stuck in different parts of the country. As many as 1.5 lakh bundles of cotton to be sent to other states by Cotton Corporation of India were also stuck and the godowns were overflowing. This was creating problems for the farmers for the storage of their produce.
As per the assessment, out of 4.5 lakh MT DAP, and 10 lakh MT urea to be used before December 31, the state has received 66,000 MT urea yet. In the month of October the state had an allocation of 4 lakh MT urea. Similarly, the state has received only 56,000 MT DAP out of an allocation of 2.5 lakh MT for the month of October.
The government has also stated that the industry, trying to be back on track after Covid-19 lockdowns, was suffering. The hosiery industry alone is set to suffer a loss of Rs 8,500 crore. In 2.37 lakh industrial units in the state 16 lakh workers get employment. With the future of these industries getting uncertain due to stoppage of supply of raw material, it could pose serious problems and unrest.
Govt calls another meeting with farmers
The three-member Cabinet committee has called a meeting with all farmers’ organisations on November 4 to discuss the issue of suspension of trains to the state. Sources said the government is preparing to get all farmers on board to corner the Centre for stopping trains. Three Cabinet ministers — Sukhjinder Randhawa, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhbinder Sarkaria — have been asked to stay back to meet the farmers even as the CM is leading a delegation to meet the President on November 4 to press upon him to assent to the state’s farm Bills.
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