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Punjab and central govt at loggerheads over goods trains

The state government of Punjab has accused the Central government of instituting a rail blockade against the state. Since October 24, the Indian Railways which gets orders from the Union government has stopped goods trains from entering the state. Its direct impact is that Punjab is running out of coal to power  its thermal power plants.

According to The Tribune, Punjab had completely run out of coal stocks by November 3 which forced the state government to buy power from the national grid. As a consequence, the entire state is witnessing extensive load shedding. The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited is cutting power for three to five hours to balance supply and demand. Other than the coal, the state is now witnessing shortages in fertilisers and raw materials for industry.

When the Central government passed three agriculture bills, the majority of Punjabi farmers were not very happy with the government’s decision. In order to express their opposition to the bills, they launched a mega agitation which, among many other things, stopped rails from passing through the tracks. Trains which carried goods were suspended for a while. On October 21, the farmer unions called for a cessation to sit in on the railway tracks.

The Indian Railways made a statement on October 27, it read that there were a couple of instances when the goods trains were being stopped by the farmers even after October 21. The organization said that it can’t run operations in these conditions of uncertainty.

Piyush Goyal, the Union Minister of Railways, said that the railways are keen to start services for the benefit of industries, MSMEs, general public and farmers. He said that he has requested the state government to clear all the railway tracks from the blockades so that the Railways can run all the trains safely.

Farmer Unions have denied the allegations of blocking the railway tracks. Moreover, it is unclear why the Railways has temporarily suspended its services in Punjab even though it has continued services in other states even when there were higher disturbances. It is not clear who is at the fault but this entire episode is clearly widening the crack between the state government of Punjab and the Union government which is not healthy for any democratic nation.

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