The Railways on Friday accused the Punjab government of “misguiding” people over the extent of blockade of rail tracks in the state by the protesting farmers, hours after the state government issued a statement claiming that all tracks have been cleared for train movement. Earlier, Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav had said 22 blockades still remained to be cleared by the state and the Railways will resume train services in Punjab only when both passenger and freight trains are allowed to operate.
“The restriction on the types of trains, routes, destinations and cargo etc. are impossible to adhere to and create huge uncertainty and risk to the life and safety of our Railway personnel and property,” the national transporter said.
“The state government is misguiding by saying that all tracks are clear for movement of goods trains. We request the state government to clear the track and stations for operation of all trains,” it said.
Train services in Punjab have been suspended since September 24 due to farmers’ protests. While they had resumed for a few days in October, the services were suspended again due to concerns over the safety and security of train crew members.
A statement from the Punjab home department said over 30 farmers’ organisations on Friday cleared the railway tracks in the state to allow the movement of freight trains following persuasion by the state government.
Sources in the Railways said the demands made by the Punjab government were “irrational” and “unfeasible”.
“The communication by the Punjab government is misleading. From the statement it appears that tracks have been cleared for all the Railway operations, which is far from the truth. The state seems to want Railways to run only goods trains for the time being… Assurance is available for goods trains and not for passenger trains. This is not acceptable to Railways,” top sources in the railway ministry said.
They said the Railways is seeking track clearance in all sections for all kinds of train operations, adding, “states cannot pick and choose type of trains for their convenience”.
The three farm laws — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — were enacted recently.
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 Centre has asserted that these new laws will be beneficial for farmers and will increase their income.