Rail roko: Punjab faces acute fertiliser, power shortage, suffers ₹40,000 cr loss

Coal-based power units shutting down; fertiliser in short supply and state industrial units are without raw materials

Farmers
The farmers have been denied permission by Delhi government to stage any demonstration at Ram Leela Ground or Jantar Mantar | File Photo: PTI

Three days after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh along with his team of MLAs put up a symbolic protest at Delhi Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, supply to the state has deteriorated: there is an acute shortage of power and fertilisers and in the absence of raw material, the local industry is in a severe flap.

The economic loss to the state has mounted to ₹40,000 crore, as per government sources.

Secondary steel producers in Punjab have increased the prices by ₹3,000-₹4,000 per tonne in the past month as goods trains are off track. The steel producers are facing a shortage of scrap resulting in high prices, The Tribune reported.

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The state government has blamed the railways for suspending the goods train, though the agitating farmers have reportedly vacated the tracks.

The supply crunch began after the farmers, furious over the new farm laws, barricaded highways and disrupted the train traffic.

Also read:Punjab CM, MLAs meet Guv, press for nod to Bills against farm laws

The protest took a political colour after the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution in favour of the farmers and introduced its own set of measures that need first the governor’s assent and then an approval by the President.

Following farmers’ agitation, the railways stopped taking freight booking orders for Punjab.

Coal-fired power plants in the state sputtered as a result of the prolonged suspension of goods trains by the railways.

Sources say Punjab farmers need 25 lakh tonnes of urea and 8 lakh tonnes of DAP, which come from Gujarat. “There is an acute shortage of fertilisers in Punjab,’’ said Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu.

Following cancellation of fresh bookings for Punjab, freight bookings are accepted only till Haryana. A few companies whose cargo is bound beyond Punjab book up to a particular railway station in Haryana, and from there the goods are transported via road.

The Railway Ministry had earlier asked the state government to give a written assurance that the tracks are clear.

It is learnt that around 11,000 containers bound for Punjab are idling at ports. “The export business will come to a complete halt if the crisis is not resolved immediately,’’ said Kamana Raj Aggarwalla, regional chairperson of Engineering Export Promotion Council (North).

Hosiery goods, both finished goods and raw material, worth ₹5,000 crore are stuck. “There is no outbound movement of finished goods and raw material is not arriving at Ludhiana units. The total turnover of the hosiery industry is worth ₹15,000 crore,’’ says VK Thapar chairman of Ludhiana Knitwear Club.

Pankaj M Munjal, chairman and managing director of HMC, a Hero Motors Company, said the bicycle industry was already facing significant component shortages post lockdown and was struggling to fulfil the surging bicycle demand in India and abroad. The farmers’ agitation has augmented the raw material crunch with supplies being disrupted at several places.

“The prolonged rail roko has created a serious shortage of inputs for the bicycle industry. Manufacturing has been hit hard. We urge the Central and state governments to intervene urgently and resolve the situation to ensure that freight trains and supplies are able to move unhindered.’’

Also read:BJP takes out tractor rally in Punjab, says farm bills will benefit farmers

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