18 November 2020, Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has expressed disappointment over the adamant refusal of the Kisan Unions to completely lift their rail blockade, which had brought the state virtually to a standstill for the past month and a half, causing immense hardship and losses.
Reacting to the decision taken by the farmer unions at Wednesday’s meeting, in the light of their discussions held last week with the central government, the Chief Minister said he had expected them to back down from their unyielding approach in the interest of Punjab, especially in view of the state government’s absolute support for their cause, and also in the light of the Centre’s decision to engage with them on the issue of the Farm Laws.
The decision of the Kisan Unions to maintain status quo with respect to their blockade of passenger trains, which was obstructing movement of goods trains also, was extremely unfortunate, said Captain Amarinder. They should realise things could not continue like this ad infinitum, and if rail transportation continued to remain suspended any longer, the state would plunge into an irreversible crisis, he said, adding that no government could afford such a situation.
Pointing out that his government had backed the farmers to the hilt since the Centre introduced its agriculture ordinances, the Chief Minister said the Bills brought in the Vidhan Sabha were a major step towards negating the impact of the central laws. In fact, the farmers had received the full support of every section of Punjab, he noted, adding that he himself had made it clear that his government was ready to lose power than to give up the fight for the farmers.
Instead of reciprocating this gesture, the Kisan Unions were standing firm on not allowing trains to move in the state without considering the grave financial and other implications it was having on the state exchequer, the industry, the common people and the farmers themselves, he lamented.
Industry alone had already suffered losses to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore (and still counting), noted the Chief Minister, adding that coming on the heels of the Covid disruption, this was putting the state under massive pressure. Industries in Ludhiana and Jalandhar alone had suffered Rs 22,000 crore in losses, while more than 13,500 containers were lying at Dhandari Dry Port, from where they could not be sent to other parts of the country due to the rail transport suspension.
As for the agriculture sector, 60,000 gunny bags were stuck in Delhi and Rajpura, thus impacting the lifting of paddy crop from grain markets, the Chief Minister pointed out. The suspension of train services had also prevented the supply of 40 lakh metric tonnes of parboiled rice from Punjab to Bihar and Eastern UP for PDS distribution, causing the central government to pick up the grain from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, he further observed. “What if the central government makes this the norm? What will happen to Punjab’s rice then? What will happen to our farmers,” he asked.
The Chief Minister said the farmer organisations had to understand that their continued blockade had put a stop on normal functioning for Punjab, which was already reeling under serious problems due to the pandemic. While the implementation of the Farm Laws had to be checked at all costs, to which his government was also committed, it could not be at the cost of Punjab’s future, he added.