Farmer groups that have been blocking railway tracks at 21 locations in Punjab have withdrawn from the sites to allow freight trains to move, the state government said today. But the trains are not likely to run as the railways want to restart both goods and passenger trains and other services together and not selectively. Some farmers are still gathered at a few places, adding to the uncertainty whether the rail blockade has ended, sources said.
The farmers had blocked train movement in Punjab since late September in protest against the centre passing new agriculture laws, which they say would harm their interests.
"On the persuasion of Punjab government, the Kisan Unions have gotten off all the railway platforms to allow frequent movement of freight trains across Punjab. In this connection, all 21 locations, where farmers have been protesting have been cleared for running goods trains," the Punjab Home Department spokesperson said in a statement today.
The state government said the railway network across Punjab has been "totally cleared for uninterrupted movement of goods trains", except a railway platform in Amritsar's Jandiala, where some farmers are still gathered.
"We told the railways that tracks have been vacated. We are holding talks with the railways as well as farmers. We are convincing the farmers to allow passenger trains to move into Punjab. We are also assuring the railways that trains will not face any blockade in Punjab," Punjab Chief secretary Vini Mahajan said.
The Railway Ministry tweeted the Punjab government is "misguiding" it since all the tracks are not clear of protesters yet. "State Govt. is misguiding by saying that all tracks are clear for movement of Goods trains. We request the State Govt to clear the track and stations for operation of all trains," the Railway Ministry tweeted.
State Govt. is misguiding by saying that all tracks are clear for movement of Goods trains. We request the State Govt to clear the track and stations for operation of all trains.— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) November 6, 2020
The Home Department said senior officers are speaking with members of the Kisan Sangharsh Committee to persuade those at Jandiala to leave the train station.
Earlier today, Railway Board chairman VK Yadav said the railways needed 100 per cent security clearance from the state to resume operations to Punjab, adding the railways will not run selective trains but will restore all services.
The loss suffered by the railways due to the protest in Punjab has crossed an estimated Rs 1,200 crore. According to data from the national transporter, over 2,300 freight rakes carrying vital items could not be run due to the blockade. Over 1,300 trains had to be cancelled or diverted.
The railways said what made the blockade in Punjab unprecedented was that it affected movement of goods and people not just to the state but also to Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.