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‘Bandh’ panic strikes trains
- Wrong information leads railways to divert routes along sensitive Dhanbad division

Ranchi, Oct. 29: A “goof-up” by the Mugalsarai division of East Central Railway about a “Maoist bandh” in Bihar-Jharkhand today led the authorities to cancel and divert several trains plying along the Dhanbad division.

Railway authorities in Dhanbad, unwilling to take chances following Saturday’s carnage in Giridih, hurriedly announced cancellation of one passenger train and diverted routes of half-a-dozen express trains after receiving a communiqué from the East Central Railway warning them of a two-day Maoist bandh beginning today.

The sensitive Dhanbad division was instructed to take precautionary measures.

Apparently the railway authorities were apprehensive that Maoists could target the trains that pass through the vulnerable Coal India Chord (CIC) where the Maoist guerrillas have a strong presence.

Trains have in the past been targeted by the rebels during bandhs. The Naxalites are also known to blow up tracks.

The express trains were diverted through Gomoh instead of Barkakana.

Authorities of important stations under Dhanbad division like Daltanganj, Tori and Barkakana put up notices informing passengers about the cancellation and diversion of the trains following the “Maoist bandh”.

Even the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel deployed at different stations under Dhanbad division since yesterday owing to the RJD rally in Patna were directed to stay put due to the Maoist bandh.

“It was the Mugalsarai division that misinformed the East Central Railway headquarters at Hajipur yesterday about the Maoist bandh from today. Its information was based on some inputs sent by its intelligence wing,” said a railway official.

When the railway officials in Dhanbad received the communiqué from Hajipur, they reverted back claiming that no such bandh of the Maoists was planned for today and hence there was no need to panic. “But since the Mugalsarai authorities insisted that they had firm information, we made preparations for the bandh,” said an official.

Railway officials admitted that the goof-up by the Mugalsarai division caused lot of inconvenience to passengers travelling on those trains whose routes were changed.

“We were not told anything about the route change. The railway officials should have made some announcements or made some arrangements,” said Rafiq Ali, a cloth trader.

State police officials claimed that whenever there is a Maoist-sponsored bandh, a press statement is issued. But there was no such press statement about any such bandh today.

The state police spokesman, R.K. Mallick, maintained that there was no Maoist bandh today. Normal life remained unaffected.

Even bus owners, who always refrain from plying vehicles during any Maoist bandhs, operated their buses.

“There was a lot of confusion this morning after we came to know that the railways had cancelled a few trains due to the bandh. But after we cross-checked with the police and other government officials, we decided to continue to ply buses,” said K.M. Singh, leader of the state bus owners’ association.

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