Farmer organisations in Punjab are refusing to stop the agitation that has continued for over 50 days against the controversial farm laws passed by Parliament in September, resulting in the cancellation of 1,986 passenger services and 3,090 goods trains to the region.
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 -- have attracted widespread protests after they were enacted earlier in 2020.
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 They demand that the laws be withdrawn.
"While 3,090 goods trains have been cancelled so far, the losses are around Rs 1,670 crore on freight loading alone. We have also cancelled, short-terminated and diverted 1,986 passenger trains so far," a source in the railway ministry told news agency PTI.
Train services remained suspended in the state with the railways rejecting a proposal of the protesters to resume only goods trains. The national transporter suffers an estimated daily loss of Rs 36 crore in freight earnings due to the suspension of services, the agency reported citing sources.
From October 1 to November 15, the railways' freight loading suffered losses due to cancellations. Many trains carrying essentials for Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir are also stranded just outside Punjab.
As many as 520 rakes of coal could not be delivered to the five power plants in Punjab, leading to a loss of Rs 550 crore to the Railways, they reportedly said. A rake is a single freight carriage in a train.
Other cancelled goods trains include 110 rakes of steel (leading to an estimated loss of Rs 120 crore), 170 rakes of cement (loss of Rs 100 crore), 90 rakes of clinker (loss of Rs 35 crore), 1,150 rakes of foodgrains (loss of Rs 550 crore), 270 rakes of fertiliser (loss of Rs 140 crore) and 110 rakes containing petroleum, oil and lubricants (loss of Rs 40 crore), they said.
Around 600 containers with various kinds of goods meant for the region have also been cancelled which have led to a loss of around Rs 120 crore and the suspension of 70 more goods rakes caused loss of Rs 15 crore.
Goods trains have not entered Punjab for one-and-a-half months, except for two days in late October, leading to a shortage of essential goods, including fertiliser needed for wheat sowing and coal supplies for thermal plants.
The agitating peasant leaders say they have vacated the tracks, but some protesters continued to occupy a few stations.
The railways has maintained that for resumption of services, it needs 100 percent guarantee from the state government that no trains will be disrupted and both passenger and freight trains be allowed to operate.
The farmers, however, have said that while they will allow goods trains, they will take no guarantee for passenger trains.
Train services in the state have remained suspended since September 24 when farmer organisations organised protests on tracks and station premises against the farm laws.
(With inputs from PTI)