Heated discussions marked a meeting between Congress Lok Sabha MPs from Punjab and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal over the restoration of train traffic in the state, with four parliamentarians staging a walkout over the minister’s remarks. Sources said four Congress MPs — Gurpreet Singh Aujla, Ravneet Singh Bittu, Santokh Choudhary and Mohammad Sadique — walked out of the meeting that saw heated exchanges with Goyal over removal of blockades on rail tracks and restoration of train traffic.
Sources said tempers flared after Goyal accused the Congress government in Punjab of “provoking and aiding farmers" to protest the Central farm laws that has led to disruption of rail traffic in the state. The four Congress MPs who stayed back at the meeting were Preneet Kaur, Manish Tewari, Amar Singh and Jasbir Singh Gill. They handed over to Goyal a letter from Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in which he assured of all support to the Railways and protection of its property.
Congress’ Rajya Sabha MPs from Punjab — Pratap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo — met the railway minister earlier in the day. This was because Bajwa and Dullo do not get along well with Amarinder Singh. Sources said Amritsar MP Gurjit Singh Aujla and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu were the first to walk out of the meeting after they objected to the railway minister accusing the Congress government in Punjab of “instigating" the farmers.
Aujla said the Goyal’s remarks were “objectionable and unaccetable". “He (Goyal) should not have made such accusations. In fact, we handed over a letter to the minister assuring the chief minister’s full support in removing the blockades on rail tracks," he said.
Aujla said the Punjab government had nothing to do with the farmers’ agitation and the chief minister has set up a committee which is in talks with the farmer unions to end their blockades. He said the state government was doing everything to remove the agitating farmers from rail tracks and ensure that train traffic was restored as Punjab was suffering.
Sources said the minister said Punjab was the only state where rail traffic had to be stopped due to agitations and there was no problem any other state in the country. “The state government stands fully committed towards ensuring the safety and security of railway properties in Punjab. It is pertinent to mention that there has been no incident of arson or damage to rail property during the current farmer agitation," Amarinder Singh said in his latest letter to Goyal.
He said between October 22 and 24, after partial withdrawal of the agitation by farm unions, a large number of goods trains have moved across Punjab. The chief minister said the DGP of Punjab Police has assured the RPF DG that the state police, including the General Railway Police (GRP) will work closely with the RPF to carry out a joint survey of the entire rail track in the state.
“We will deploy adequate police and security personnel along with RPF day and night to ensure full protection to railway personnel and property," the CM also said, urging the railway minister to restore train traffic in Punjab. Earlier, during their meeting, Bajwa and Dullo urged Goyal to restart rail services in the state. The two Congress MPs in the Rajya Sabha said there has been no transportation of critical goods.
Due to suspension of freight train services, Punjab was witnessing a shortage of diammonium phosphate (DAP) and urea fertilisers, which are essential for agriculture, they said.