The ongoing farmers’ agitation in Punjab has made a dent on the earnings of Indian Railways as it has suffered a loss of Rs 1,670 crore in freight earnings alone.
The agitation in Punjab that has continued for over 50 days now has resulted in the cancellation of 1,986 passenger services and 3,090 goods trains, according to railways.
While 41 passenger-carrying trains have been cancelled, 11 trains were short terminated in view of the farmers’ agitation in Punjab, Northern Railway said in a statement.
The worst affected route was New Delhi-Katra section which has borne the brunt of the agitation.
Farmers in Punjab have been protesting against the three agriculture laws — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — since they were passed by the Parliament.
The Railway Ministry maintained that train operations remain forcibly suspended due to blockage of tracks in Punjab.
From 1 October to 15 November, the Railways’ freight loading suffered losses due to cancellations of trains and many trains carrying essentials for Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir were stranded just outside Punjab.
As many as 520 rakes of coal could not be delivered to the five power plants in Punjab, leading to a loss of Rs 550 crore to the Railways.
Other cancelled goods trains include 110 rakes of steel (leading to an estimated loss of Rs 120 crore), 170 rakes of cement (loss of Rs 100 crore), 90 rakes of clinker (loss of Rs 35 crore), 1,150 rakes of foodgrains (loss of Rs 550 crore), 270 rakes of fertilizer (loss of Rs 140 crore) and 110 rakes containing petroleum, oil and lubricants (loss of Rs 40 crore), according to railways.
Around 600 containers with various kinds of goods meant for the region have also been cancelled, leading to a loss of around Rs 120 crore and the suspension of 70 more goods rakes caused a loss of Rs 15 crore.
In October, Railways transported a total 108.06 million tonnes of goods and earned Rs 10,404.45 crore.
According to railways, while 3,090 goods trains have been cancelled so far, the losses are around Rs 1,670 crore on freight loading alone.
Railways has also cancelled, short-terminated and diverted 1,986 passenger trains so far.
Goods trains have not entered Punjab for one-and-a-half months now, except for two days in late October, leading to a shortage of essential goods, including fertilizer needed for wheat sowing and coal supplies for thermal plants.
The agitating peasant leaders say they have vacated the tracks, but some protesters continued to occupy a few stations.
Train services remained suspended in the state with the Railways rejecting a proposal of the protesters to resume only goods trains.
The national transporter suffers an estimated daily loss of Rs 36 crore in freight earnings due to the suspension of services.
Recently, Punjab Assembly had passed a resolution rejecting the three farm laws enacted by the Central government with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh later leading a delegation to Governor VP Singh Badnore urging him to give his assent to three bills by the Assembly.
On 4 November, Amarinder Singh staged a ‘dharna’ at Jantar Mantar in Delhi over the issue of suspension of goods railways services in Punjab since 24 September.
The Railways has maintained that for resumption of services, it needs 100 percent guarantee from the state government that no trains will be disrupted and both passenger and freight trains be allowed to operate.
The farmers, however, have said that while they will allow goods trains, they will take no guarantee for passenger trains.
Farmers’ bodies protesting against the laws have expressed apprehension that these would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporate entities.
They demand that the laws be withdrawn.
The government has assured that these new laws will be beneficial for farmers and will increase their income.