With farmer protests roiling Punjab and the Railways suspending services of goods and passenger trains, the Army hit the road to ensure stocking of essential supplies for troops on the northern frontiers. Military sources said winter stocking of supplies for personnel of the Army and Central Armed Police Forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh was completed by the end of October. Any further replenishment will be flown in once the passes close in J&K and Himachal Pradesh, the sources said.

The suspension of train services following the farmer protests, which gained momentum after new farm laws were enacted by the Centre, had prompted Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to warn that it would not only hit the state’s farmers and industry and people of neighbouring states, but also the supply of essentials to soldiers bracing for the winter in Ladakh and the Valley.

A senior Army officer said adequate reserves are already in place and the rail blockade will not pose a serious threat. Moreover, movement of special military trains for exercises and field firing, the officer said, has not been taking place due to Covid restrictions.

Major General Yash Mor (Retd), who raised the Ladakh Sub Area a couple of years ago and was until recently Chief of Staff of a Corps, said: “All winter stocking for Ladakh is over. There is enough short dumping of essential stores, food items and clothing etc which is then moved up as per requirement. It is a very finely tuned cycle, and in any case most of the movement of supplies takes place via road. Any replenishment which needs to be done for forward areas takes place by air once the roads are blocked due to snowfall after late October.”

A senior official in the Northern Railways conceded that some goods trains meant for Army supplies were delayed in the last 50 days. Railway officials got in touch with Army officers who told them that though they have already done advance dumping of ration, clothing, arms and ammunition and equipment, there are some day-to-day requirements.

“After the Rail Roko was started by farmers in Punjab, at least 15-20 trains with Army supplies were affected. These were not Army special trains, but general freight trains carrying supplies for the Army,” a Northern Railways official said.

Another Railway official said that ever since the blockade, no special train demand for J&K was placed by the Army. Regular queries regarding resumption of goods trains have been coming from the Army, the official said, adding “if there is an emergency, special trains can be run for the armed forces”.