New Delhi: The "rail roko" protest in Punjab is causing severe disruption in the supply of essential commodities to and from the state, with more than 200 loaded rakes of freight being stranded across railway zones and many power plants on the verge of being shut down due to a shortage of coal, railway officials said on Wednesday. Farmers' bodies are staging protests across Punjab against three farm laws recently passed by Parliament.
Of the 200 rakes that are lying stranded, 79 are carrying coal, 22 fertiliser, three cement, two petroleum, oil and lubricants and 88 iron, steel and other products. The agitation has led to a complete cancellation of all passenger trains to Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir since September 24. Similarly, freight traffic across Punjab has been severely impacted since October 1.
"As on date, more than 200 loaded rakes for Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir are stabled across various railway zones due to the ongoing farmers' agitation. Regular messages are being received from industries and companies, whose rakes have got stuck due to the rail roko agitation. Even the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has reported that some power plants may have to be shut down due to a coal shortage," an official said. Officials said while the Goindwal Sahib Power Plant has already shut down, the Talwandi and Nabha thermal power plants have coal stocks for only three and six days respectively.
Rail movement of wheat and rice by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) from Punjab to other states has also been stopped, leading to loss of loading of more than 25 foodgrain rakes daily, they added. The oil marketing companies (OMCs) have also expressed serious concerns regarding the supply of petroleum products for the Jammu depot, as the POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) stocks are depleting fast.
"They have requested for an immediate movement of rakes for meeting the demands for the Jammu area and further supplying to the Srinagar, Leh and Kargil areas. The general manager of the Northern Railway has taken up the issue with Punjab's chief secretary, requesting for an immediate resumption of rail movement," an official said. The "rail roko" agitation against the farm laws is likely to continue in Punjab as no decision could be taken at a meeting of 30 farmer organisations in Barnala on Saturday after most of their leaders failed to attend it. The protests have led to severe power outages in the state due to a reduced power generation.