Lifeline under threat

Lifeline under threat

Train operations at night suspended in Maoist areas in 5 states

Lifeline under threat

The suspension will be in place until next Thursday. Trains will not ply between 10 pm and 5 am. The duration of the suspension coincides with the ‘Black Week’ being observed by the Maoists until Wednesday. The suspected Jhargram sabotage took place on the first day of the Black Week.

“In view of observance of Black Week from 28th May 2010 to 2nd June 2010 by some groups, as a precautionary measure and to ensure safety of train passengers, the Ministry of Railways has decided not to run passenger trains from 2200 hours to 0500 hours between Kharagpur-Tatanagar and Kharagpur-Adra sections of South Eastern Railway with immediate effect till 0500 hours of 3rd June 2010,” a ministry statement said. The decision will affect 10 trains and they have accordingly been rescheduled.

Following Friday’s attack, the railway authorities announced that for the remainder of the Black Week, ending June 3, the departure timings of five trains departing from Howrah Station had been rescheduled and these would now leave only in the morning, so that they cross the Maoist-affected region during daytime.

Elaborating on the reasons, railway member (traffic) Vivek Sahai said: “There are intelligence reports of threat to railway property from these elements (Maoists) as they are observing a Black Week. The suspension of night-time operations also forced the railways to suspend the railway time-table for a few days,” he added.

A South Eastern Railway spokesperson said the move was meant to ensure safety of passengers. “Trains have been rescheduled from Central Railway and East Coast Railway from May 28 to May 31 so that they can reach Jharsuguda (Orissa) only after daybreak.”
They train services affected include 2810 Howrah-Mumbai, 2152 Samarkanta Express, 2130 Azad Hind Express, 2906 Porbandar Express and 2834 Ahmedabad Express. The 2101 Gyaneswari Express, 2809 Mumbai-Howrah Mail via Nagpur and 2129 Pune-Howrah Azad Hind Express are being rescheduled from Friday till May 31 to avoid night running of trains in Orissa and West Bengal. These trains are originally scheduled to reach Howrah at 3.35 am, 5.50 am and 3.50 am, respectively.

The decision came in for sharp criticism from a retired senior police officer who had earlier served in Maoist-dominated areas. “This is an absolutely mindless decision. It is nothing but a total surrender to the Maoists. It is an admission that we are not able to protect our passengers in the wake of the Maoist threat. ,” former CBI joint director N K Singh, who had served as superintendent of police in Orissa’s Maoist-affected Koraput district, told Deccan Herald.

Another senior police officer wondered if “the authorities would also suspend day travel in the event the Maoist sabotage takes place during daytime.”