Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday termed the Railways’ decision to link the movement of goods trains in the state with the passenger ones “totally irrational and illogical”.
The Railways has declined to resume goods train services in Punjab, saying it would either operate both freight and passenger trains or none.
Amarinder Singh said there is absolutely no logic in linking the movement of goods and passenger trains, which the Railways are doing as a “patent excuse” to continue with the suspension of freight services.
Passengers wanting to come to Punjab can easily travel by train to stations in nearby states, such as Ambala in Haryana and Chandigarh, from where they can go by roads to their destinations in Punjab in a few hours, he said in a statement.
This was not an option for freight movement, he said, adding if the people of Punjab, including its farmers, continue to be deprived of their essential needs in this manner, the situation can aggravate.
The train services in Punjab have been suspended since September 24, when farmers started their “rail roko” agitation against the centre’s farm laws.
Mr Singh said by defending the railway authorities’ decision, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been further “fuelling the fire of anger” among farmers, who have shown more concern for the citizens than the party was doing.
Rejecting outright the BJP state unit president Ashwani Sharma’s allegation of Punjab “arm-twisting” the Centre, the CM said it is the BJP leadership which is “inciting” the farmers with its “anti-Punjab” stance on the issue
Instead of questioning the Railways and supporting the state government in persuading the Centre to allow freight trains to ply, the BJP leadership continue to indulge in “dirty politics” at the cost of the Punjab people’s welfare and those of neighbouring states, he alleged.
“What’s worse is that the BJP is not even concerned about our soldiers in Ladakh and Kashmir who are waiting desperately for critical supplies before the onset of snow, which would block them off completely from the rest of the country for the winter months,” he added.
On Mr Sharma’s accusation that the state government has failed to dissuade protestors from blocking train services, the CM said it is his government which convinced farmers to ease their blockade to let essential supplies come in.
Even now, several of his Cabinet colleagues are engaged with farmers’ bodies to push for the complete lifting of the blockade to allow even passenger movement, he said, adding it is in his government’s interest to do so, as it is responsible for the people of the state.
The chief minister said the adamant stand of the Railways, which the BJP was vehemently endorsing, suggested lack of intent to resolve the issue on the goods trains.
“Why else will the Railways be taking refuge in one excuse after another to continue to suspend the services in Punjab, especially after the farmers cleared all tracks for freight movement and he personally guaranteed full safety for the goods trains, even though the Railway security rested with the GRP?” he asked.