With goods trains off track, Punjab’s lifeline cut off

Not budging: Farmers block a railway track during a protest at Jandiala Guru in Amritsar on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Amid the continued suspension of goods trains by the Railways to Punjab, key sectors from agro-processing, engineering, hosiery, pharmaceutical, textile, power to auto components makers have taken a blow in Punjab as supply of raw material has reduced and delivery of products have come to a near halt.

While the BJP-led Central government on Wednesday blamed the Punjab government’s inaction for the ongoing impasse, members of as many as 30 farmers outfits decided to allow movement of goods trains till November 20 amid the ongoing ‘rail roko’ agitation against Centre’s farm legislation.

Farmers also announced to shift their ‘agitation’ from railway platforms to nearby vicinities. The Railways, meanwhile, said its losses have crossed ₹1,200 crore in the last month as train operations remain suspended due to farmer protests currently at about 32 places on railway premises and tracks in Punjab.

“Earlier we had decided to let goods train go through the railway tracks till November 5, and now we have decided to extend the date till November 20. The ongoing impasse is due to authoritarian attitude of the Central government and discrimination towards Punjab farmers,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bhartaiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda).

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said the rail blockade by farmers in Punjab was due to the State government’s inaction and that the Centre was keen on restarting operations quickly. “Essentially, law and order are the responsibility of the State government. They can have a dialogue with farmers, which they have not done,” he said.

Several industry-players believe that unless the stalemate between Central and State governments was resolved it would be difficult for the businesses to get back to normal.

“The condition of micro, small and medium enterprises has gone from bad to worse due to suspension of railways. Over 90% MSMEs in the State are involved in manufacture of cycle. But due to shortage of raw materials the production has gone down by at least 50%,” Narinder Bhamra, president, Fastener Manufacturers Association of India, told The Hindu.

Mr. Bhamra said the industry is unable to supply products against its commitments to foreign buyers and is facing heavy penalties owing to the delay. “A conservative estimate put our industry loss at ₹5,000 crore,” Mr. Bhamra said.

The agro-processing industry has also taken a hit. “The basmati rice exports have come to a complete standstill. Over 2,000 rice containers are lying uncleared at inland container depot (ICD) in Ludhiana,” said Ashok Sethi, director, Punjab Rice Millers and Exporters Association.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 3:33:45 AM |

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