Amid the continued suspension of train services to Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh Sunday said he has sought Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s intervention into the issue even as BJP state president accused the chief minister of trying to arm-twist the Centre by “instigating the farmers” to continue with their protests against the farm laws.
Reiterating his assurance of a smooth and safe movement of goods trains in the state, Amarinder, who spoke to Shah on Saturday, said that there are no law and order concerns to prevent the resumption of the services to facilitate the supply of essential commodities in Punjab and neighbouring states, including Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir, all of which are “suffering colossal losses” due to the suspension of trains.
The Railways has declined to resume services in Punjab, saying it will either operate both freight and passenger trains or none.
The train services in Punjab are suspended since September 24, when farmers started their “rail roko” agitation against the central laws. Goods trains had resumed briefly after farmer unions on October 21 announced exempting them from their “rail roko” stir but the Railways suspended them again, saying farmers are still blocking the tracks.
Amarinder said he informed Shah that the security concerns could be serious for the nation if essential supplies did not reach the armed forces in Ladakh and the Valley before snowfall due to the Railways’ decision not to ply goods trains immediately.
He sought to counter the “misinformation” being spread on this count and said all tracks have been cleared by farmers for movement of freight trains. The situation on the ground is totally peaceful and conducive to safe transportation of goods, he told Shah. The CM said the agitating farmers have not disturbed peace in any part of Punjab.
Reiterating his earlier assurance to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Amarinder told Shah he had directed the Punjab Police to extend all support to the Railway Protection Force (RPF) in providing security on the tracks and platforms. He said it was the joint responsibility of the central and state governments to ensure that the train services are resumed at the earliest.
The state government, said the chief minister, is closely engaged with farmer organisations to persuade them to lift their blockade completely to allow passenger trains too so that Punjabis, including the 1.5 lakh soldiers stationed in various places, could come home for Diwali. Several of his ministers are in discussion with farmer unions in this regard, he added.
The Centre should take immediate steps to restore normalcy by directing the Railways to commence movement of goods trains through the state, he added.
Saying that it was in Punjab’s interest to ensure early revival of the rail services, Amarinder Singh termed as unfortunate the attempts by the Opposition, including some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, to “politicise” the issue. The CM said he had expressed concerns on this count in his open letter to BJP national president JP Nadda, wherein he had called for joint efforts by the Centre and the state to find an amicable solution to the problem.
Punjab BJP president Ashwani Sharma, meanwhile, wrote a letter to Amarinder saying that even after Railway Board chairman R K Yadav had said that the Railways was ready to resume train services anytime after the state government clears the tracks, the Punjab CM has continued playing anti-people politics.
“On the one hand, the Punjab government had failed to dissuade protesters from blocking train services, on the other hand, it is claiming that due to non-supply of items like coal, Punjab was facing a crisis,” Sharma said.
He said at more than 15 places in the state, the protesters were still camping on the railway station premises. “Does Punjab government want only goods trains to run and not the passenger trains?” he asked.
Sharma said the Punjab CM was dictating railway agenda to the Centre for his petty politics. “If the Punjab government claims to have prepared conditions for running goods trains, why cannot it ensure similar security for the passenger trains?” he asked.
The Congress government, he said, was acting against the spirit of the Supreme Court judgments also which clearly said that in the name of protest roads and rails could not be blocked.
“This has not only put the common man to a lot of inconvenience, but it has also created major difficulties for the business community which is engaged in manufacturing and trading and farmers who need fertilisers and other inputs coming through trains. It has badly affected the movement of labourers working in agriculture fields and industrial units and has also hit imports and exports from the state,” he said.