| Protesters block railway line at Talcher. Telegraph picture
Angul, Feb. 17: Seventy five agitating people were arrested by Talcher police this evening for blocking railway tracks in Talcher all through the day today.
Hundreds of local people under the banner of Talcher Rail Users Committee resorted to rail blockade at Bantol near Talcher railway station since this morning blocking coal supply by rail from Talcher Coalfield. Local MLA Braja Kishore Pradhan and MP Tathagat Satpathy also joined the protesters in the blockade.
Nearly one lakh tonne of coal is dispatched through the station from Talcher Coalfield everyday. The power stations in Orissa, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and others depend on raw coal by rail route from Talcher.
Local people are demanding that all express trains running between Bhubaneswar and Sambalpur should pass through Talcher rail station. Though a couple of intercity and long distance express trains are running on the line, they do not touch Talcher rail station. Most of the trains, instead, go via Talcher road rail station. This has been agitating the local people.
The railway authorities have done injustice to Talcher, accused the committees convenor, Brundaban Sahu. They get crores of rupees every year from the station in form of coal revenue, but they do not allow express trains to pass through the station which would help local residents and coalfield employees as well, he said, while threatening to continue the rail blockade for an indefinite period.
Negotiations between the railway authorities and protesters have failed to break the ice. We have no authority to commit anything to people, says assistant regional manager of railways, P.K. Rout.
We have conveyed the demand of the people of Talcher to the railway board. The board will take a final call on the matter, he added.
We are receiving distress calls from the coal-starving power plants of the country, said the sales manager of Mahanadi Coalfield Limited in Talcher, G.C. Ray. He informed that no rake could be supplied from station to either Nalco or NTPC power station due to the blockade. Nalco and NTPC together take about six rakes of coal everyday.
Police force intervened late in the evening and cleared the railway tracks, while arresting seventy-five protesters.