In first indication that the Railways is ready to resume train services in Punjab, Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav Thursday said the Punjab government has assured that all blockades on rail premises by protesters will be cleared by Friday morning. He said the train services will resume once “all the tracks are under rail control”.
The protesting farmer outfits in Punjab, however, claimed that all the 33 rail blockades were cleared by them on October 22.
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, in a letter handed over to Goyal personally by Congress MPs Pratap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo, assured safety and security of railway property and personnel.
The BJP delegation, including Union Civil Aviation Minister and BJP leader Hardeep Singh Puri, party national general secretary Tarun Chug, spokesperson R P Singh and Punjab unit president Ashwani Sharma, sought Goyal’s intervention to resume services and put an end to the “dire circumstances being forced on Punjabis” amid the festive season as the state is literally “under siege” of the Congress government.
The BJP state unit chief said that fertiliser and pesticide shortage is becoming a huge problem for the agriculture sector. “This letter is to bring to your notice the dire circumstances being forced on Punjabis as the Congress government (in the state) is busy sponsoring the agitation in the name of farmers…. The Union minister is aware that it’s festive season and people of the state cannot travel due to non-plying of trains. It is pertinent to note that the national security has to be considered as the supplies to Jammu and Kashmir are not reaching due to the apathy of the state government,” Sharma said in his letter.
The Railway Minister responded saying the railways was ready to start operations in the state provided an assurance is given from the state government about the security of its personnel. “The Railways is ready to begin operations in Punjab provided the state government gives us an assurance of safety of trains and clears tracks of protestors,” Goyal said in a tweet.
Addressing a press briefing in Delhi, 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.
Asked if a condition was laid down by Railway Minister 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 any way,” the railway board chairman said.
Director General of Railway Protection Force Arun Kumar said the Punjab DGP 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.
In Chandigarh, Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said that all the main railway tracks were cleared of agitators on October 22. “Since then, nobody is staging protest on these tracks. Only two private lines of thermal plants were blocked by BKU (Ugrahan) but that had nothing to do with the main line traffic.”
He said none of the 30 agitating farmers organisations were blocking rail traffic. “They are unnecessarily blaming the farmers. They did not want to resume train traffic.”
Darshan Singh Kokrikalan of BKU (Ugrahan) too claimed that the outfit was not blocking any mainline track. “We had been sitting on the two private tracks to private thermal plants. Now, we would clear those also Friday and sit on a dharna outside the main gate of these thermal plants,” he said.
The Railways claimed to have already suffered an estimated Rs 1,200 crore in losses due to the agitation in Punjab on the train tracks.
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