The Indian Railways on Saturday said unless rail tracks were cleared for passenger trains too in Punjab, it would not restart operations.
This comes despite the state government and the agitating farmers saying the passage for freight trains would not be blocked.
"There is no question of ego. No one should tell railways which trains we should operate. We will run trains when there is safety assured for both passenger and freight trains," said V K Yadav, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Railway Board.
According to the Railways, at least 23 stations were facing blockades. People had occupied one of the stations. "Protestors are telling us that we can run goods trains, but saying that they will not allow us to run passenger operations. We need complete assurance of safety," he added.
Punjab Food Processing Minister Om Prakash Soni, however, told Business Standard, "The Centre government is playing politics. All the tracks are cleared and there are no protesters on tracks. Why can't they at least run goods trains? Our power sector is suffering due to lack of availability of coal, the agricultural sector, too, is bleeding with no movement of trains."
For the Indian Railways, the average loss of inward rakes per day comes to around 30 rakes, while that of outward rakes comes to around 40 rakes per day, including passenger and freight trains, per day loss to the Northern Railway is over Rs 16 crore. On September 24, farmers in the Punjab region started blocking railway tracks and stations demanding the repeal of three Central farm laws. Initially, the Rail Roko Agitation was called for three days by farmer groups and unions, which has continued till date. Although, all coaching trains including parcel train movements had been suspended in Punjab region since September 24, but, goods train movements were continuing in pockets till September in areas with no disturbance.
From October 1 onwards, however, all movements suspended as agitation spread all over Punjab which affected complete train operations in the Firozpur division and Punjab areas of Ambala, Delhi and Bikaner divisions. Agitators later on allowed conditional goods train movement from October 22 onwards. Two days after freight train movement was resumed, it was again suspended due to operational and safety considerations as sporadic blockade continued at various places especially around Amritsar, Nabha, Talwandi Sabo, Firozpur and Moga.
All inward and outward goods transportation including that of essential commodities have been affected badly in Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Laddakh and Himachal Pradesh. Many freight customers, after having suffered business losses, are moving material through the road.