The Indian Railways has informed that it is taking into consideration the idea to link their flagship freight service Kisan Rail with seasonal fruits and vegetables to benefit small farmers, according to senior ministry officials.
The move comes after a political storm rages over the new farm bills that promise one nation one market and that is supposed to be a precursor to double farmers’ income by 2022.
“An Orange Special Kisan Train between Nagpur and Delhi and a Keenu Special from Punjab to West Bengal and Odisha during December and January could be the first ones to start with,” a senior ministry official told the media.
He further added, “We want to ensure that these trains are beneficial to small scale farmers who are not able to book the entire train. They can book as little as they want and still avail these services.”
The officials said they are still finalising details, but added that they have received feedback from zonal railways about the viability of running dedicated trains linking them with seasonal produce.
The Kisan Rail services launched last month started its maiden journey from Devlali in Maharashtra to Danapur in Bihar. The Kisan Rail is a step towards realizing the goal of doubling farmers income by 2022 and will also provide a seamless supply chain of perishable produce including milk, meat and fish.
Earlier this month, Railways launched its second Kisan Rail from Anantapur in the state of Andhra Pradesh to Adarsh Nagar in Delhi and then Yashwantpur to Nizamuddin. The Kisan Rail are at present running on 85% capacity and so far has carried around 4,100 tonnes of goods from farmers to markets across the country.
As per reports, the smallest consignment carried by Kisan Rail was a 3 kg pomegranate packet from Nasik to Muzaffarpur, and around 17 dozen eggs from Manmad to Khandwa on August 14.
Besides the Orange Special and the Keenu Special, on the anvil are also: Mango Special (Andhra Pradesh to Delhi between April to June), Onion Special (Nashik to Delhi, during March and December), Banana Special (Jalgaon to Delhi, during March and December); and Chiku Special (Surat, Valsad, Navsari to Delhi) between April-November.
As per the officials, the farther the goods are sent, the cheaper is the cost of ferrying them.
Within a distance of 0-500 km, the Railways services are expensive, but they are at par with the roadways for over 1,000 km distance, they said, adding that for over 2,000 km, the Railways is cheaper than the roadways by at least Rs 1,000 per tonne.
These Kisan Rails will be part of the zero-based time table that will be in effect soon. Which means, even if regular services begin post-COVID-19, these trains will have dedicated routes and paths to operate on.
The government and the Railways are committed to rapidly increase the farm incomes, according to the official quoted above. “Ensuring that farmers are able to sell their produce across the country to get the best possible remuneration for the produce is one of the important ways to do so.”
Kisan Rails represent one such determined freight marketing effort of Railways and it is expanding fast, he said.
“Earlier, farmers preferred to use trucks, now they have started using the Railways,” he said, adding zonal teams are coordinating with the Ministry of Agriculture and actively pursuing local authorities to encourage farmers to use the national transporter.
“They can bring us as little as they want and as much as they want of their produce and we will ferry them to their chosen destination,” said the official.