After the continuous demand for Kisan Rail, South East Central Railway (SECR) wrote a letter to Railway Board seeking to know whether the 50 per cent freight subsidy scheme is still operational. Since the scheme period lapsed on December 9, 2020, and farmers and traders are still having large holding of orange, SECR decided to follow-up with Board. The clarification is also needed in case Railways had not exhausted the entire allocation for the scheme it could ensure win-win situation for farmers/traders as well as Railways who can earn few extra bucks through freight revenue. So far, SECR’s Nagpur Division had run two Kisan Rail, having composition of four Parcel Vans, 2 SLR bogies and 6 GS coaches. While maximum component in these Kisan Rail was that of oranges, there was also load of green chilly and green vegetables. This year, due to rains, the plucking of oranges got delayed and by the time they were ready for dispatch the subsidy scheme of FPI got lapsed leaving farmers fuming. The scheme was floated by Ministry of Food Processing Industry (FPI), Central Government, to ensure that surplus produce of farmers can be widely dispatched within country through Kisan Rail. To sweeten the deal for Railways, the Department of FPI offered to bear 50 per cent cost of freight that resulted in faster marketing with farmers groups as well as traders.
For Nagpur Division the main market for oranges is Saunsar where arrival of oranges got delayed due to late plucking. Given the current quantum surveyed by field officials it is understood that the produce available right now can last for entire month of December. One Kisan Rail can transport nearly 24 tonnes of commodities, orange and other vegetables, mostly perishable, and the scheme was aimed at ensuring that this damage of farm produce is avoided by faster distribution in country’s markets. The main market for farm produce from Central India happens to cities in Eastern part of the country, such as Tata Nagar, Rourkela, Shalimar, and to some extend cities in Assam. A rough calculation shows that distance from Saunsar to Howrah is about 1201 km and freight comes to Rs 3257.90 plus Rs 65.16, something about Rs 3323.05 per tonnes if normal rates are charged. But with 50 per discount in fright, the bill comes to Rs 1694.01. Same freight through road is about Rs. 1.25 lakh per 24 tonnes whereas in Kisan Rail the amount is Rs. 40,670 only.
Another advantage with railways is faster journey, between 28 to 30 hours where through roadways it takes about three days to reach the market by which times some of the produce gets perished. To make matters worse for farmers and traders even export market failed to work this year though due to COVID-19 pandemic background everyone was banking on heavy demand for oranges, it are rich with Vitamin C that helps in immunity boosting. The main export market was that of Bangladesh but the plans of Railways to push Kisan Rail failed to materialise, though as per reports traders are pushing the table fruit through roadways. This is due to complications with custom duty which Bangladesh traders found too hefty and hence opted for low volume transactions at border post, said the sources. Another reason for low dispatch from Nagpur Division was low availability of VP due to heavy demand in the country. Meanwhile farmers are keenly anticipating a positive response from Railways side so that they can salvage their oranges that are all ready for dispatch to Eastern markets of country.