Indian Railways has suffered a loss in earnings amounting to Rs 2,220 crore in the last 55 days from stopping train services due to the farmers’ protest in Punjab. And Punjab’s industry has lost around Rs 30,000 crore so far owing to the rail blockade by agitators and the subsequent stoppage of train traffic by the Railways.
Indian Railways is of the opinion that it will not restart freight operations unless the agitators allow passenger trains to run. Farmer organisations had agreed to allow freight trains to resume.
According to Indian Railways data, the freight segment suffered a loss of 40 rakes loading per day due to the agitation. The Northern Railways is losing Rs 14.85 crore per day on originating earnings only. The total revenue loss on freight segment till November 19 was around Rs 825 crore.
In the passenger segment, revenue loss due to cancellation of passenger trains stands at Rs 67 crore, taking the overall revenue loss to Rs 891 crore for Northern Railways. Overall, the Indian Railways has lost around Rs 2,220 crore in earnings.
Farmers in Punjab started the blockade on September 24 in protest against the new agri-marketing laws enacted by the Centre, fearing that these might lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system.
Owing to the protests, the Railways could not load around 3,850 trains in the state. So far, 2,352 passenger trains have either been cancelled or diverted. At present, 230 rakes are held up outside Punjab — 78 for coal, 34 for fertiliser, eight for petroleum and oil lubricants, and 102 for steel and other commodities. Besides this, around 96 rakes are stuck in Punjab and cannot be moved out.
The state’s economy, too, is hit badly by the agitation. According to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, industries in Ludhiana and Jalandhar alone have suffered losses of around Rs 22,000 crore so far. At Dhandari dry port, 13,500 containers are stuck and cannot be transported to other parts of the country.
“Sectors like agriculture, textile, steel, food processing, MSME (micro, small & medium enterprises), sports goods and all exporters are badly hit. The industry is in a state of desperation because of the blockade, which came after the Covid-19 pandemic. This will have a huge impact on the job scenario as well as inflation,” said Bhavdeep Sardana, vice-chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry in Punjab. "Shifting from rail to road route has also increased the cost of transportation of goods in the last two months.”