Metro Railway services ground to a halt for two hours on Thursday afternoon, following a ceasework by motormen protesting the manhandling of one of their colleagues by some passengers.
Services remained suspended from 2.40 pm to 4.40 pm, when the striking motormen withdrew their protest. The Metro authorities later confirmed that 24 trains were cancelled during the period.
At around 2.08 pm, a Dum Dum-bound train pulled into Maidan station and the authorities announced that the engine had developed a snag and could not carry on. All passengers were instructed to get off.
“There was no hint of trouble as passengers started getting off the train,” said Kuldip Singh, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters. “But the next announcement from the station authorities, that the empty train would be taken to Dum Dum, sparked angry protests.”
A large number of passengers — claiming that if the train was ‘fit’ to travel to Dum Dum, it could well take them along — descended on the driver’s cabin. Some dragged out motorman Subir Bhadra. “When Bhadra protested that he was not to blame for the technical snag, the commuters slapped and kicked him,” said a Metro official.
On hearing the commotion, railway personnel at the Maidan station rushed to the spot and rescued the 50-year-old motorman. “The nearby Maidan police station was also alerted,” said Singh. “Bhadra was finally escorted back into his cabin and he drove off towards Dum Dum.”
Bhadra, who later lodged a complaint with Maidan police station, reached the Noapara Metro carshed and told his colleagues about being manhandled at the Maidan station. “The other motormen reacted immediately and called for a ceasework, demanding immediate arrest of the culprits,” said Singh.
As Metro services remained suspended, senior policemen intervened. They spoke to the agitated motormen and assured them that “necessary action” will be taken against those who had manhandled colleague Bhadra. The ceasework was withdrawn after the police assurance.
Metro Rail officials later explained that the particular train had developed technical snags on Thursday morning. “Initially, the door-lock system of a particular compartment was not functioning properly. Then, a snag in the engine was detected. The motorman decided not to take a chance and advised the Maidan station authorities to empty the train. But the passengers just went berserk,” they said.