Protest in Bihar as Mamata stops train halts ordered by Lalu

Patna, Jun 1: An angry mob in Bihar torched a train and a station Monday to protest a new rail schedule that has trains skipping stops at their station, railway police said. No injuries were reported.

Television footage showed orange flames and black smoke billowing out of the train that was stopped just outside the Khusrupur train station.

Around 200 protesters set the train station on fire and pulled up train tracks, causing delays to dozens of trains, said senior railway police officer Rajender Singh.

The new schedule is the result of a political reshuffle following last month’s national elections, with the new Railway minister Mamata Banerjee overturning the policy of the outgoing minister Lalu Yadav, a Bihar political strongman.

Yadav had major trains stopping at dozens of smaller stations in his home state.

The Railway Board had also asked the ECR authorities to withdraw stoppages of as many as 33 trains, including Howrah-Patna Janshatabdi Express, Rajgir-New Delhi Shramjeevi Express and Toofan Express at smaller stations.

The change angered Khusrupur residents who watched in vain as the Patna-Calcutta train sped by. Khusrupur is about 18 miles (30 kilometers) east of Patna, the capital of Bihar.

“That train did not stop there, so they went berserk and attacked the Dhanapur intercity express,” Singh said.

Lalu Prasad, meanwhile, is likely to face another setback with the Railway Board putting all the nearly 250 halts, including 100 unauthorised ones, created during his stint as Railway minister, under scanner.

The Railway Board had asked the East Central Railway (Hajipur) to examine the economic viability of these halts and if found commercially unviable,to initiate steps to close them down, ECR’s General Manager Girish Bhatnagar said here.

The halts, under five divisions of the ECR, are creating hurdles in the smooth running of the trains, Bhatnagar said.

“We have received a communication in this regard a week ago and have identified nearly three dozen such halts, which are generating almost negligible revenue,” Bhatnagar said.

Bhatnagar, however, tried to downplay the Railway Board’s move saying its decision had no relation with change of guard at the Rail Bhavan.

“Most of these halts have been opened on an experimental basis and the railways review their viability every six months,” he said.

“This again has nothing to do with the change as these stoppages have been introduced on trial basis and some during Kosi floods on humanitarian measure,” he pointed out.

Against 89 stations in ECR’s Danapur division, there are 140 halts and at least four-dozen illegal halts, while Samastipur division has 106 stations and 57 halts followed by Dhanbad division — 104 stations and 25 halts.

According to Railway officials, Mugalsarai division of the ECR has less than half-a-dozen halts, while the Sonepur division, has less than two-dozen halts.

Locals torch Khusrupur railway station, attack train

Incensed over railway’s decision to withdraw stoppage of several trains at Khusrupur station in Bihar, angry locals today ransacked and torched the station, attacked the Intercity Express and uprooted rail lines under Danapur division, about 32 km from here.

Deputy Superintendent of Government Railway Police (Patna East) Rajendra Singh said hundreds of people from nearby villages stormed the Khusrupur railway station this morning, ransacked the station and burnt it down.

They were protesting the East Central Railway’s announcement in newspapers pertaining to withdrawal of stoppage of several express trains, including Rajgir-New Delhi Shramajivi Express and Kosi Express, at Khusrupur.

Locals also attacked the 3226 down Danapur-Jainagar Intercity Express at Baikatpur village near the station, and torched its three bogies — two general coaches and an airconditioned chair car, Singh said.

They also uprooted the railway lines in a stretch of several metres under Danapur division of East Central railway.

Fire tenders fought for hours to douse the flames, Singh said. Later, the residents called off the protests on assurances by railway officials that the halts will be restored.