Nearly 230 trains loaded with essential goods are waiting idle outside Punjab for the last nearly one month due to protests by farmers in the state, according to Railways officials.
Coal for power plants, petroleum products meant for the state as well as for Ladakh and J&K, and fertiliser for the farmers are the main items in these rakes.
Chief among them are 100 rakes of coal meant for the five power plants in the state. With the blockade stretching to over a month, they have been moved away and kept in various loop lines in Delhi and Haryana, a Northern Railway official said.
Around 10-12 rakes of coal service these power plants every day. Punjab has expressed concern that if coal stock of the power plants is not replenished in time, the state will face power crisis in the winter.
Around 70 rakes of fertiliser are also lying idle at various places in Northern Railway zone awaiting clearance, official data show. Railways officials said that as per annual routine, rakes loaded with fertiliser are prioritised across India to service Punjab in the kharif and rabi (October to March) seasons. Punjab is heavily dependent on fertiliser from other states.
Thirty rakes of petroleum product meant for the state as well as supplies to Ladakh and J&K are also awaiting clearance. Ladakh’s fuel requirement is crucial to be fulfilled before the winter, and this is the time for supply.
Both Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh and Chairman Railway Board V K Yadav have expressed concern that the deadlock might interrupt essential supplies to the armed forces.
The rest are containers with various kinds of goods meant of multiple places, records show.
Officials said an estimated 5,000 containers loaded with woolens and hosiery from the industrial belt in Punjab are awaiting clearance to go to the ports for export. “These are the months for export of woolens from that region, and post-lockdown the industry would have counted on this peak seasonal business,” said a senior official connected with operations in Northern Railway.
Foodgrain are also awaiting loading in places such as Moga in Punjab, and the godowns are full for want of timely evacuation, the official said. In regular course, around 40 loaded freight trains enter and leave Punjab every day.
“The loaded rakes cannot be kept idle beyond a point due to capacity constraints and this is obviously not the usual practice. But we are waiting for clearance to resume operations,” a Northern Railway spokesperson said.
The state as well as those protesting the three farm-related laws have been asking the Railways to run only goods trains. But the transporter insists that it requires clearance to run both passenger and goods trains.
“No one can tell Railways which trains to run where. It is not operationally feasible. We want all lines to be clear and we want a security clearance from the state government,” Chairman Railway Board Yadav said.
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