Punjab must give assurance about safety of rail property, personnel before services resume, says Piyush Goyal
The ongoing farmers' protest against three farm laws has affected the supply of coal, fertilisers, etc, to the state while blocking goods to nearby states like Jammu and Kashmir
New Delhi: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who met both Congress and BJP delegations from Punjab on Thursday, said train services will resume only on the condition the state government gives assurance about safety and security of railway property and personnel and clears the tracks of all agitators.
Both the BJP and Congress delegation sought Goyal's intervention in resuming train services in the state. They said the suspension of rail services was having an adverse effect on the economy of Punjab.
The BJP delegation included Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, party national general secretary Tarun Chug, spokesperson RP Singh and Punjab unit president Ashwani Sharma. In a letter to the railway minister, Sharma alleged the Congress government held Punjab "under siege" and was playing politics over the issue.
"We request immediate redressal by your august office to take an undertaking from the state government for security and protection to start goods and passenger trains with immediate effect. The common man is reeling under great economic stress," he said.
"The industry and commerce in the state have virtually shut down and the repercussions of this will break the backbone of the economy in the already depressed economic status of the state. Punjab's industry and commerce play a pivotal role by providing jobs to a large segment of society," he said.
Sharma also said a shortage of fertilisers and pesticides was causing 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 the festive season and people of the state cannot travel due to non-plying of trains. It is pertinent to note that national security has to be considered as the supplies to Jammu and Kashmir is not reaching due to the apathy of the state government," he said in the letter.
Congress' Punjab MPs Pratap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo also met Goyal and handed him a letter in which they said rail services must resume at the earliest.
Otherwise, the safety and security of Punjab, as well as that of the Armed Forces and civilians living in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, will be negatively impacted, they said.
"Due to the suspension of operations of the Railways, our farmers and the larger economy of Punjab will be irrevocably damaged," the Congress MPs said.
The two leaders said all the three private thermal power plants in Punjab have shut down operations due to the lack of availability of coal.
"This shutdown will critically affect the industries of Punjab. You are well aware of the damage the pandemic has had on the economy of every state. Any further stoppage of economic activity will ensure more misery to the 2.7 crore Punjabis," they said.
BJP's state president, Sharma also requested that the Punjab chief minister be immediately asked to give assurance that the railway blockades will be cleared and goods and passenger trains start with immediate effect.
Goyal told the delegation that 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 the safety of trains and clears tracks of protestors," Goyal said in a tweet.
Train services have remained suspended for over a month in the state due to agitation by farmer groups against three farm reform laws passed by Parliament recently. The national transporter has said that it has already suffered losses due to this is to the tune of Rs 1,200 crore.
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 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.
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