| A deserted road in Silchar on Tuesday. Telegraph picture |
Silchar, Sept. 24: A 12-hour strike, held in the Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi from 5am today to press for rapid construction of the 201km-long Silchar-Lumding broad gauge rail line, passed of successfuly and peacefully.
The broad gauge rail line will replace the antiquated 109-year-old metre gauge rail link set up between this town and Lumding in the last century.
The strike was called by Silchar-Lumding Broadgauge Implementation Sangram Committee, a non political entity, and was backed by the AIDUF, BJP, AGP and the Barak Valley Banga Shahitya and Sanskrity Samiti.
The Cachar Sunni Foundation and the Assam University Students’ Union, among others, also extended their support to the strike.
The construction of the rail link, which began in 1994 after its foundation was laid here by then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, is now slated for completion by early 2015 by the Northeast Frontier Railway (construction).
The rail line, which was originally estimated to cost Rs 648 crore in 1994 is now estimated to cost Rs 4,200 crore in the wake of the delay in commissioning it.
The main cause of the delay, railway sources said, is insurgency in Dima Hasao district between 2006 and 2009, which killed 65 construction staff and workers, and the alleged indifference of the Centre towards the scheme.
Veterans said today’s strike had more impact than the earlier ones in Barak districts in scale and magnitude.
Even official agencies called the strike “unprecedented” .
As the Silchar-Lumding Broadgauge Implementation Sangram Committee held picketings in front of state and central government offices, banks, educational institutes and market places, the districts’ towns and rural areas were completely desolate.
The response to the strike was overwhelming in the three districts with people preferring to remain indoors. Barring vehicles of police and security forces, private and public cars were off the roads.
Police sources said there was no untoward incident in any part of the three districts.
Official sources also said the strike passed off peacefully barring “some minor incidents”.
While regular flights operated at Kumbhirgram airport, 25km from here, running of trains was disrupted because of picketing at stations and train tracks.
The Bairabhi-Silchar metre-gauge train was halted in Lala town in Hailakandi district this morning.
Around 135 supporters of the strike were rounded up for squattings before offices and banks at Lala, at Udarband township in Cachar district and at Patherkandi town in Karimganj district early today.
The Silchar-Lumding BG line envisages construction of 20 tunnels, including a 3,010-metre-long tunnel near Jatinga village in Dima Hasao district, 46 major bridges and 24 rail lines on this route.