Seats go empty on trains plying rebel zones - Even confirmed tickets fail to draw passengers to Rajdhani, Garib Rath via Daltonganj

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By SANTOSH K. KIRO in Ranchi
  • Published 28.10.09

Ranchi, Oct. 28: Fear of rebel attacks are keeping passengers away from trains plying on the Central India Cord (CIC) section of Indian Railways in Jharkhand, including the superfast Rajdhani Express.

Delhi-bound passengers now seem to prefer the Rajdhani Express (2439/40) that plies on the Muri-Gomoh route, instead of the one going via Daltonganj (2453/54). Ticketing patterns reveal that several passengers prefer to be on the waiting list of the Ranchi-Gomoh-Delhi Rajdhani, instead of getting a confirmed ticket on the Ranchi-Daltonganj-Delhi Rajdhani Express.

While the Ranchi-Gomoh-Delhi train on November 1 has 157 passengers on the waiting list for AC III as of today, in AC II the waiting list is 24. For November 4 on the same train, the AC III waiting list is five while in AC II, only two berths are available. For November 8, the waiting list in AC III is 79 and in AC II, it is 26.

The trend is the opposite on the Rajdhani Express via Daltonganj (Palamau), now considered a very sensitive route. For November 3, there are 24 berths available in AC III and 54 in AC II as of today. For November 10, there are 106 berths available in AC III and 68 in AC II.

“Passengers do not want to take any risk while travelling so they choose the Rajdhani that runs through Gomoh instead of Daltonganj,” said Ashok Nagpal, the secretary of Chhotanagpur Passenger Association (Ranchi unit).

Passengers are also avoiding the newly introduced Garib Rath Express, connecting Ranchi to Delhi and running through Daltonganj.

While Ranchi-New Delhi Rajdhani Express via Gomoh runs twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Daltonganj train runs only on Tuesdays. The Garib Rath Express runs twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.

The fear of passengers is not unfounded. On August 24, rebels blew up a railway track in Latehar district during a bandh, barely an hour after the Delhi-Ranchi Rajdhani Express had passed by. On May 12, Maoists abducted four railway officials from Hendegiri railway station. Last year, they abducted three railway employees from McCluskieganj.

Railway officials, however, said they are not likely to make any changes in the train routes, though they do run the Delhi-bound trains through Gomoh during bandhs. “Any change in route solely to avoid Naxalites would amount to buckling under pressure,” said a railway officer, requesting anonymity.

Security in the CIC section has become a cause of worry for the Railways ever since Maoists became active in the area. Officials, however, did not accept that passengers were avoiding the Rajdhani Express that runs via Daltonganj. “Law and order is a state responsibility. We do not have enough personnel to guard rail tracks, which run through deep forests,” said Dilip Kumar, chief public relations officer of East Central Railways.

He said only the state can take steps to ensure safety of trains from Naxalite violence.

Besides Rajdhani Express and Garib Rath, important trains running through Daltonganj include Jharkhand Swarnjayanti Express, Ranchi-Chopan Express and Hatia-Jammu Tawi Express.