Punjab: Farmers’ dharnas hit rail revenues, toll plazas’ losses mount

9 months ago 24
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Written by Raakhi Jagga , Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar, Ludhiana | October 8, 2020 9:48:14 pm

Amritsar Farmers Protests, Punjab Farmers Protests, Devidaspura Railway Track, Rail RokoFarmers have blocked rail tracks at 33 different places in Punjab due to which passenger as well as goods trains cannot enter Punjab. (PTI Photo)

AS INDEFINITE protests by farmers against farm laws continue, revenue losses at toll plazas, railway junctions, and fuel stations in the Punjab are mounting. The protests have already caused the Railways a revenue loss Rs 200 crore, data from the Ferozepur Division of the Indian Railways revealed. Further till October 7, a refund of Rs 55 lakh has been made to passengers. The NHAI, meantime, has suffered a loss of Rs 7.5 core approximately till October 8 in Punjab due to farmers blocking various toll plazas in the state. Toll plazas that have been blocked in Haryana have made NHAI suffer a loss of another Rs 3.5 crore, taking the highway authority’s total loss since October 1 to Rs 11 core in both states.

Dharna on tracks hits rail revenues

Farmers have blocked rail tracks at 33 different places in Punjab due to which passenger as well as goods trains cannot enter Punjab.

According the information from the Northern Railways, daily nearly 28 freight trains and 14 passengers trains were running from Punjab before the rail roko started on September 24.

Ferozepur Division, which oversees entire Punjab, was collecting around Rs 14 crore revenue daily from the state, which has been transporting huge amount of the food grains from here to other states. So, in past 15 days around Rs 210 crore loss has been incurred in terms of freight earnings.
In September, 650 freight trains were sent from Punjab till September 23 leading to Rs 327 crores being earned as revenue by the Railways, which was 114 per cent higher as compared to September 2019.

Also, in September month Ferozepur Division set up a record by loading 1,650 wagons and 1,568 wagons on a single day on September 23 and September 9, respectively.

“While we had earned a revenue of Rs 352 crores via transport of goods via goods trains in September, but now trains have been cancelled completely,” said Rajesh Aggarwal, Divisional Railways Manager, Ferozepur. He added: “There is no damage to railway property anywhere at the protesting sites. Revenues are only deferred as no one could transport goods on trucks either. It is, however, causing inconvenience to the people of Punjab…. We had to give a refund worth Rs 55 lakhs to passengers.”

It is learnt that Business Development Unit of the Ferozepur division is in regular contact with its clients, who have been hiring the freight trains to transport the goods, for future bookings following the rail roko is over.
Farmers, meanwhile, have also been urged to allow goods trains at least so that coal supplies can come for running thermals as they had stock ranging from 1 to 6 days left as on Wednesday. Moreover, food grains and potatoes also need to be sent via trains to other states so as to clear godowns for paddy, revealed sources. Urea also needs to be brought via goods trains for wheat sowing.

On Tuesday, farmers had stated that they will think over Punjab CM’s demand of relaxing dharnas on tracks so as to allow goods trains in Punjab, but on Wednesday, they stated that dharnas on train tracks will continue as it is.

“During lockdown, goods trains were not moving for weeks together, but things moved as normal. However, now after 8 days of our rail roko, figures are being generated of losses. This shows double standards of government,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU (Dakaunda).

Meanwhile, passengers who are still travelling by these trains are facing a lot of trouble.

“It is difficult for long-route passengers like the ones from Mumbai, Bihar to end their journey outside Punjab, or to catch these trains by hiring road transport to Ambala, Delhi and Saharanpur,” said a senior Railway official, adding that farmers too are helpless when the government is not listing to their genuine demands.

So far, 325 passenger trains have been cancelled in Punjab since September 24.

NHAI suffers too

So far, the NHAI has suffered a loss of Rs 11 crore due to dharnas at 37 toll plazas in Punjab and Haryana. Out of these 18 are in Punjab and the rest in Haryana.

Protest started at the 37th toll plaza in Ludhiana’s Ladhowal on Wednesday. Ladhowal toll plaza generates the maximum revenue in Punjab which is around Rs 75 lakh per day, revealed NHAI authorities.

In Haryana till October 8, revenue loss of nearly Rs 3.5 crore has happened due to dharnas at various toll plazas located at Sonipat, Rohtak, Hisar and Ambala, and one near Chandigarh that was giving revenue of nearly Rs 1.5 lakh a day.

There is no sign of the protests being lifted before October 15, which is the deadline that farmer unions have set for Punjab CM calling a special session on the farm laws issue.

Interestingly, while public is allowed to move at toll points without paying any tax, at times, many commuters stop to give voluntary donations to protesting farmers.

Protests outside fuel pumps

Apart from this, farmers have staged dharnas within the premises of over 30 private fuel pumps in Malwa, Punjab due to which these petrol pumps are not able to sell fuel and hence are suffering revenue losses. Out of these, majority of pumps are of Reliance and the rest of ESSAR. When The Indian Express contacted Dinesh Miglani, regional head of fuel stations of Reliance, he refused to comment on the issue and did not divulge any detail about revenue loss to the company due to dharnas going on at many petrol pump premises in Punjab.

In addition to this, four shopping malls cum multipurpose stores of corporate houses are also lying closed since October 1.

They are located in Bhucho Mandi in Bathinda, Bathinda city, Khanna and Amritsar. Details about their revenue loss were also not revealed.

Jagseer Singh, farmer union leader from BKU (Ugrahan), said, “We are aware that many employees working on toll plazas, petrol pumps, shopping malls are getting employment from these organisations, but we told the employees that in case they need any ration, our unions will be helping them out. They should understand that our fight is for one and all as farming is going to affect everyone sooner or later. A few employees working at toll plazas at different locations of Punjab even contributed voluntary donations to us despite the fact that they get salaries of less than Rs 10,000 a month. We were not taking any donation from them, but they insisted strongly and hence we kept that token with us.”

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