WITH FARMERS still sitting on train tracks at Jandiala Guru in Amritsar district as part of their protest against the Centre’s farm laws, the Railways have refused to operate any goods train in Punjab till the tracks are fully cleared.
Earlier, the Railways had announced that they would not run any train in Punjab between October 24 and 25, but the same has now been extended till October 29. This was confirmed by Rajesh Aggarwal, divisional railways manager (DRM), Ferozepur division, while interacting with mediapersons.
Farmers had started the ‘Rail roko’ on September 24 at six points, which was reduced to two locations. But from October 1 onwards, they had organised ‘Rail roko’ at 33 different locations in Punjab not allowing any goods as well as passenger trains in Punjab as a mark of protest against the farm laws. On October 13, BKU (Ugrahan) had lifted the ‘Rail roko’ from three locations, while from the remaining 30 locations, it was lifted on October 21 by the 29 farmer unions of Punjab. However after lifting the protest from all existing 33 places, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC) started ‘Rail roko’ at a fresh location — Jandiala Guru in Amritsar — which has irked the Railways.
DRM Aggarwal said, “As our trains are lying stranded for more than a month, we need to run them on tracks for their regular maintenance. When on October 21, farmer unions had announced to lift rail roko for goods trains, we had started operations of 173 goods trains on October 22 and 23 but on these two days, one empty rake of passenger train was stopped at Romana Albel Singh which was being run by Ferozepur division for maintenance purpose and even a few goods trains had been stopped on the way, due to which our operations did not run smoothly. Hence it was decided to stop operation of goods trains in Punjab for October 23 and 24 which has now been extended till October 29. We appeal to farmers to clear the rail tracks/stations completely so that we can provide services to Punjab.”
Aggarwal further said, “We cannot run operations in these conditions of uncertainty and we want to make it clear that operations and planning have to be done by us only and not by anyone else.”
Meanwhile, farmers on October 21 had announced that they will run only goods trains in Punjab and no passenger trains will be allowed to run. Moreover, KMSC members are also sitting at Jandiala Guru railway station. Satnam Singh Pannu, president of KMSC, said, “From October 24 to 31, we had been sitting at select locations and despite that Railways were running their controlled operations of goods trains during these days. Their operations were halted completely from October 1 to 21 only. But now they are pressuring us to allow passenger trains as well on rail tracks which we are not ready to do. They are all set to create artificial shortage of goods in Punjab and vitiate the atmosphere of this state and hence are playing these dirty games. We have no issues with goods trains being run, and they should not have any issues if we are sitting just at one point in Punjab. We will not bow to their pressure at all.”
Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU (Dakaunda), who was in Delhi to attend a two-day meeting of the All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination Committee, said, “The central government is not bothered about the pain Punjab’s farmers are undergoing. Their dictatorial attitude shows that they are not bothered about farmers sleeping on roads, hence, such an attitude of not running trains in Punjab has been shown for the first time. It shows that they don’t consider Punjab as a part of the country. Let them do whatever they want, our struggle will continue.”
Meanwhile apart from ‘Rail roko’, farmers sitting at toll plazas across the state is also causing loss of revenue worth crores to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Most of the fuel stations of two corporate houses in Punjab are lying shut since October 1. Farmers also stage dharnas for 3-4 hours on a daily basis outside houses of nearly a dozen BJP leaders in Punjab. On Monday, farmers staged protest outside the Reliance Telephone Exchange as well in Sangrur, locking it up and thereby affecting operations in that area. Farmers this is their yet another attack on the corporate sector in Punjab.