Press Trust of india

Need 100% security clearance from Punjab govt to resume train services: Railway Board chief

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New Delhi:  The Punjab government has been unable to remove all blockades on the railway network with as many as 22 sites still to be cleared of protesters, Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav said on Friday, adding that the railways needs 100 per cent security clearance from the state to resume operations.

Yadav, in a press briefing on Thursday, said the state government had given assurance that the tracks would be cleared by Friday morning.

Rail services in the state have remained suspended since September 24 when farmer organisations organised protests on tracks and station premises against the recently passed farm laws.

The Railway Board chairman said the railways will not run selective trains, but will restore all services.

“There are 22 blockades remaining in the state as of now.The RPF and the state police have had meetings in Chandigarh yesterday and we have conveyed to them that they provide us security clearance for all trains so that we can restore them at one go. We will not start selective train services, whether freight or passenger. We have conveyed to them that we require 100 per cent security clearance from them to begin operations,” he said.

Sources said that during the meetings with state government officials, it was indicated that the state wanted freight trains to resume operations but not passenger trains. Also, there were proposals from the state, sources said, to begin transportation of select goods for a select number of days, which the railways declined to do.

Sources said that the railways has conveyed to the state government that this “on and off” system suggested by them was “not feasible”.

“We have bookings for our passenger trains and it is sad that during this festival season we are cancelling the trains everyday. I have full faith in the state government that in some time the blockades will be cleared and we won’t have to cancel the trains scheduled for tomorrow,” said Yadav at a press briefing on Friday.

RPF Director General Arun Kumar said that while in some places protesters have been cleared from the tracks, they have accumulated in the circulation area.

The concern, he says, is that these people might again block the tracks.

“We have requested the state police to provide additional force so that if they converge on the tracks again, they can be restricted,” he said.

Yadav reiterated the railways’ demand that train services could resume only under one condition that “all blockades are removed and we get the state government’s assurance of safety and security of the trains”.

The loss suffered by the railways due to the agitation in Punjab over the central farm reform laws has already crossed an estimated Rs 1,200 crore as protests on train tracks continued.

According to data from the national transporter, over 2,300 freight rakes carrying vital commodities could not be operated till date due to the blockades caused by the protestors. Around 1,350 trains have been forced to be cancelled or diverted, it said.

Train services in Punjab have been suspended since September 24 due farmers’ protests. While it had resumed for a few days in October, it was suspended again due to concerns over safety and security of train crew members.

The three farm laws — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — were enacted recently.

Farmers’ bodies protesting against the laws have expressed apprehension that these would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporate entities. They demand that the laws be withdrawn.

The Centre has asserted that these new laws will be beneficial for farmers and will increase their income.

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