Industries suffer Rs 22,000 crore loss due to suspension of goods trains: Punjab minister

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Chandigarh, Nov 9 (PTI) Amid the ongoing protests by farmers over the three central farm laws, Punjab Industries and Commerce Minister Sunder Sham Arora on Monday claimed that industries in the state have suffered financial loss of Rs 22,000 crore because of the suspension of goods trains.

The Railways had declined to resume goods trains in Punjab, saying it would either operate both freight and passenger trains or none due to the protests.

Arora appealed to Railways Minister Piyush Goyal to immediately resume operation of freight trains in the state.

“The industry in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Mandi Gobindgarh has suffered a loss of Rs 22,000 crore,” Arora said here while pointing towards the adverse impact of the suspension of freight trains in the state.

Industry representatives are meeting him and apprising him of problems being faced by them due to suspension of trains, he said.

Arora said the figure of loss being quoted has been provided by the industry representatives.

He further said 13,500 containers, which were carrying goods, remain stuck at Dhandari Kalan dry port in Ludhiana as the trains are not operating.

“The industry is facing huge losses. If such a situation remains, the industry will not have money to pay even salaries to its employees,” the minister said.

Arora said the iron and steel industry has been forced to bear an additional cost of transportation for bringing raw material from other states.

“The price of iron and steel material at present is Rs 4 per kg higher than that in other states. In such a situation, why would buyers place an order from here,” he asked.

The minister also lashed out at the Centre for adopting a “vindictive attitude” towards Punjab.

“I do not know what the Centre has in its mind. But they are discriminating against Punjab,” he said.

Train services in Punjab were initially suspended from September 24 when farmers started their “rail roko” agitation against the central laws.

Goods trains had resumed briefly after farmer unions on October 21 had announced exempting them from their 'rail roko' stir but the Railways suspended them again, saying farmers are still blocking the tracks.

Ludhiana-based industrialist S C Ralhan said the credibility of the industry was at stake besides the financial losses.

“The damage to the industry is irreparable,” said Ralhan, who is also former president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).

He said the transaction cost of the industry has gone up manifold with containers laden with goods being sent through trucks due to suspension of trains.

“Our foreign buyers are also fed up with the delay in shipment of goods and now they have started saying that they will look at sourcing goods from other places,” said Ralhan.

Nearly all the industrial verticals including bicycle and bicycle parts, textile, hand tools, automobile parts, steel, machine tools, etc., are facing dearth of raw material in the wake of non-operational goods trains, the industry representatives said.

Apart from this, the state industry is also unable to ship finished and ready-made goods for exports as containers have got stuck at ports because of suspension of goods trains. PTI CHS VSD HDA