Punjab farm protests: Railways incur loss to the tune of Rs 1,200 crore

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New Delhi, Nov 4 (PTI) The loss suffered by the Railways due to the agitation in Punjab over the Cenral farm reform laws has already crossed an estimated Rs 1,200 crore as protests on train tracks continued at 32 places across the state, the national transporter said on Wednesday.

According to data from the national transporter, over 2,225 freight rakes carrying vital commodities could not be operated till date due to the blockades caused by the protestors. Around 1,350 trains have been forced to be cancelled or diverted, it said.

'Losses already expected to have crossed Rs 1,200 crore as agitators continued dharna at platforms/near railway track. Train movement had to be suspended due to operational and safety considerations as agitators have suddenly stopped some train movement and sporadic blockades continued at various places especially around Jandiala, Nabha, Talwandi Sabo and Bathinda,' an official said.

'Due to the continued blockages at sections of tracks in Punjab, there has been a major adverse impact on freight movement and on availability of vital commodities for farm, industrial and infrastructure sector as well,' the official said.

Later in a statement, the Railways said outward loading too has been affected from the Punjab area. Movement of foodgrain, container, automobile, cement, pet coke, fertilizer have also taken a hit, the statement said, adding the average loss of loading per day in Punjab was 40 rakes per day.

'Running trains with protestors sitting on the tracks or close to it is a dangerous situation. Trains drivers find it extremely hazardous to run in such situations,' it said.

Earlier, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had written to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh seeking assurance about safety of tracks and running staff to resume operations.

The Punjab chief minister is scheduled to lead a 'dharna' of Congress MLAs at Rajghat in the national capital on Wednesday following President Ram Nath Kovind's refusal to meet a delegation led by him over the Centre's farm laws issue.

The Punjab Chief Minister's Office had on October 21 sought an appointment for Singh and his delegation with the President to urge him to grant his assent to the state's farm bills passed last month by the assembly in a bid to negate the Centre's farm legislations.

The farmers' agitation in Punjab began around September 24 when they started blocking railway tracks and stations demanding repeal of the three agriculture related bills. Farmers in Punjab have expressed apprehension that the Central farm reform laws would pave the way for dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the 'mercy' of big corporates. PTI ASG NSD NSD NSD