| Tariq Anwar (left) flags off the train in Katihar. Picture by Mohan Mahato |
Junior agriculture minister Tariq Anwar on Monday flagged off a train between Katihar and Howrah to the cheer of the town’s trading community.
The weekly train, Katihar-Howrah Express, started its maiden journey for Howrah at 10.30pm on Monday. Operating under Northeast Frontier Railway, it would complete its journey in nine hours.
Anwar, along with local BJP MP Nikhil Choudhary and BJP and Nationalist Congress Party supporters, carried out a token flag-off around 11am on Monday. Earlier on Sunday, junior railway minister Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had flagged off the train at Howrah.
The weekly would depart from Katihar every Monday at 10.30pm and leave from Howrah every Tuesday at 6.45pm. With stoppages at almost all stations such as Nawa and Kumerpur along the way, it would cover 650km in nine hours.
The express has come as a boon for the residents and traders of Katihar. Till now, they only had the daily Hate Bazare Express (from Saharsa to Howrah via Katihar). Not only does this train take 14 hours to reach Howrah, the seats available in the Katihar quota are not sufficient for the rush for the train.
Markets in Katihar, a thriving establishment for readymade clothes, are closed on Tuesdays and the traders mostly bring their goods from Howrah and Calcutta.
“The Katihar-Howrah Express would prove to be boon for the business community. The traders can finish their work on Monday and board the train at night. They can shop at Mangla Haat, a roadside market sitting every Tuesday in Howrah, according to their needs. They can easily complete their shopping by the evening, in time to take the evening train back to Katihar,” said the chairperson of Katihar Chambers of Commerce, Bimal Singh Begani.
Cloth merchant Rajendra Singh said: “The weekly train will make business trips easy on us. The readymade market would also grow in Katihar and the surrounding districts thanks to the train.”
Apart from the traders’ rush, people who need to go to the south Indian cities for vacation or treatment also have to travel via Howrah.
“There is no direct train from Katihar to south India. People of Katihar and its surrounding districts, including Purnea, Araria and Kishanganj, have to go to Howrah to board trains for Chennai, Vellore or Bangalore,” added Begani.
Senior divisional commercial manager of Katihar division, Northeast Frontier Railway, Bibhuti Bhushan Gupta said: “The Hate Bazare Express has only 70 seats in the Katihar quota, while passengers in the waiting list hover around 150-200. If the train could be made tri-weekly, the pressure would be reduced by a lot.”