The Telegraph
Monday , September 6 , 2010
Since 1st March, 1999
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NJP gets tag, ‘class’ eludes station

Siliguri, Sept. 5: Mamata Banerjee had promised to make New Jalpaiguri station “world-class” but for a railway halt that is used by 10,000 people and 60 trains daily, basic amenities rather than a flashy tag is more the need of the hour.

Besides, even after nearly a year of the railway minister’s announcement, her department officials are still not sure how to define a “world-class” or an “adarsh” station. The “adarsh” tag has been earned by Siliguri Junction through which 1,000 people and five-seven trains pass everyday.

Both the stations cater for Siliguri and its suburbs, the entire hills and at least one more north Bengal district, Jalpaiguri, besides Darjeeling and also Sikkim.

As one walks out of NJP station, a shabby and dirty ambience waits for the visitor. Stacks of garbage are piled up in the parking space at all times of the year, the situation turning worse during the rainy season.

“The entire parking lot gets waterlogged when it rains and it is tough for a person to walk out of the station without wetting feet,” said Samrat Sanyal, a tour operator who often visits NJP to pick up or drop clients. “Then there is the stink. Most tourists pass through this point.”

The potholed roads — there are two approach routes — to the station are also strewn with filth. Illegal shanties and hooch dens line up both sides.

“At the entrance to the building, where there are ticket counters and food stalls, there is no lounge for waiting passengers. Only a handful of chairs are fixed on one side, reserved for defence personnel. The basic amenities are missing in NJP even as work is on to fix an escalator on one of the footbridges,” said Rajat Mukherjee, a resident of Hakimpara in Siliguri. “When we go to receive our friends or relatives at the station, we have to wait at the entrance blocking others’ entry. There are not enough seating arrangements inside or outside the station. No announcements about late arrivals or departures of trains can be heard from outside. As a result, hundreds of passengers crowd the station although it may not be time for their trains. ”

The story of Siliguri Junction is perhaps worse. The entrance, beside Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminus, is very narrow. Since early morning till 8pm, it is difficult to drive up to the station, courtesy the buses leaving the terminus, which block the narrow road.

“The Sealdah-bound Darjeeling Mail, despite repeated requests, cannot be extended till Siliguri Junction from NJP because of the approach road. People who live in Siliguri and the hills are dropped near the Junction by cars but they have to travel another 6km to reach NJP station to board the express,” a railway official said.

The Kanchan Kanya Express, the Delhi-bound Mahannada Link Express, Guwahati-New Delhi Purvottar Sampark Kranti Express, Guwahati Jhajha Express and the Ranchi-Alipurduar Express — all depart from Siliguri Junction. But the demand has been always for the extension of Darjeeling Mail. The railways are wary about extending the train because of its departure time. “The departure time from Siliguri Junction for Darjeeling Mail will have to be between 7.15pm and 7.30pm. Almost at the same time, at least 25 Calcutta-bound buses leave the Tenzing Norgay terminus adjacent to the station. It will be chaos all around,” said a railway official.

Railway officials said work was on to clean the NJP station. “But we don’t have any such plans to build a waiting area for passengers,” said G.D. Mondal, the station manager of NJP.

S. Hajong, the chief public relations officer of the Northeast Frontier Railway, said the approach road to Siliguri Junction would be cleared of encroachments. “We are aware of the congestion and have a plan to widen the road,” he said over the phone from Maligaon.

Asked what would be the parameters of a “world-class” station, Hajong said he was not aware of it. “So far we have not received any specific guideline about what the infrastructure of a world class or adarsh station should be,” he said.

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