Amritsar, September 29
The call for ‘rail roko’ stir by farmer unions has affected the business interests of vendors as the running of several trains at the Amritsar railway station continued to be hit for the second consecutive day on Friday. Because of the agitation, the footfall of passengers has also seen a dip.
Seeking a special package for the flood-affected people of Punjab, farmer unions which are part of the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political), continued to block the Amritsar-Delhi main line at Devidaspura on Friday.
Requesting anonymity, vendors at the railway station said rents and running cost of vends were extremely high. For instance, the operator of a food plaza at the station shells out over Rs 11,000 per day. They rued that an ordinary vendor shells out a monthly rent between a minimum of Rs 15,000 to a maximum of Rs 20,000 to the railways and 18 per cent GST over it. Some stall operators cough out Rs 3 lakh annually as rent to the railways. Their other standing expenditures include Rs 12.07 per unit commercial power tariff, salaries to staff, maintenance and other charges.
There are about 14 vends and 30 trolleys besides a food plaza. Vendors said they were incurring huge losses on account of the railway track blockade as customers have vanished. Many vends were closed today as platforms remained deserted.
The city railway station falls under category ‘A’ but there is no provision to help them overcome the economic crisis. They rued that since shops remained closed, their fixed expenses remained intact. All these factors together aggravated the financial losses of vendors.
The vendors pointed out that the railway station has not managed to recover the daily footfall of around 50,000 passengers and plying of 130 trains at the local railway station. It is enough to suggest that already a limited number of trains were being operated, offering the vendors limited business opportunity. In this scenario, they are seeking relaxation in the annual licence fee. Earlier, the Covid-induced lockdown and travel restrictions imposed to ensure social distancing, and then the farmers’ blockade affected rail traffic in March, 2021. This also caused them plenty of losses.
Platforms wore a deserted look, railway tracks were lying unoccupied at the Amritsar railway station today. Passengers were seen waiting for their turn at the windows to get reimbursement for their cancelled tickets as several trains did not ply. Meanwhile, keeping in view the reduced footfall, the railway authorities have started replacing the railway track at platform number 3.
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