The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has decided to resume short-distance train services, including intercity trains connecting north Bengal as the law and order situation in Assam gradually improves, an official said today. Railway authorities had to suspend several trains to ensure safety and security of passengers, following violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Though short-distance train services resumed, longdistance ones via north Bengal remained cancelled till today, following attacks on trains and stations by protesters in Malda. As a result, several passengers were in deep trouble as they remained stranded at many railway stations, including New Jalpaiguri station in Siliguri, since Sunday. In a press statement, the Northeast Frontier Railway said long-distance trains will remained cancelled even tomorrow.
The trains include the Malda-Katihar passenger train, while trains like the Secunderabad Express between Guwahati-NJP-Satragachi, are cancelled for other days between 22 December and 29 December. “However, five Up and four Down express trains will resume their services, connecting Kolkata. They are the Dibrugarh-Howrah, Silchar Trivandrum, Silchar-Sealdah Kanchanjungha Express and others, including the Guwahati- Kolkata Garib Rath,” the NRF said.
Notably, chief minister Mamata Banerjee hit the roads in Kolkata today and criticized the Railways for cancelling most of the trains due to attacks on a few railway stations. However, Trinamul Congress workers in Siliguri, including tourism minister Gautam Deb and Darjeeling district party president Ranjan Sarkar, have been keeping in touch with stranded passengers at the NJP station and other terminals in Siliguri.
Meanwhile, several stranded passengers, who tried to reach Kolkata by air, failed to arrange for tickets, given the alleged high rates. “Agents of private transporters demanded high rates from the stranded passengers,” sources claimed. Notably, minister Deb visited the NJP station to meet stranded passengers and made proper arrangements for them to proceed towards their destinations, it is learnt.
“Hundreds of railway passengers were in deep trouble since Sunday evening. We are in constant touch with the New Jalpaiguri station and bus terminals about providing the passengers hospitality and made arrangements for transport after providing them food,” said party president, Mr Sarkar.
“The North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) has extended support to ferry the stranded passengers from here. It is true that fares for flights are abnormally high. At present, it is Rs 21,000 for a Bagdogra-Kolkata flight. I have informed the Airport Director at Bagdogra about the matter and urged him to look into the matter,” said Mr Sarkar.
One Debabrata Chaki, a Cooch Behar resident, who had to go to Kolkata for immediate medical treatment for his wife, said: “It is a good morning because I am going to Kolkata by air for treatment of my wife by managing tickets of a flight at the rate of Rs 9,000 each.” As both NBSTC drivers and passengers fear attacks on their way to Kolkata, Mr Sarkar said the district administration had been providing them police escorts.