Thursday, July 17, 2008

Maoist activities on the rise, railways take the hit

PATNA, July 16: It’s double trouble for the beleaguered UPA government. On one hand the Left parties have nearly held up the nation by suddenly withdrawing support to the ruling UPA coalition, on the other, Leftist extremists, the Maoists, are destabilising the country’s economy by frequently targeting railways and blasting tracks. The statistics speak for themselves. According to reports, the railways have lost nearly Rs 220 crore in the past 20 months due to blasts on railway tracks ~ courtesy ~ the Maoists, who are protesting against the arrest of their cadres and alleged police brutalities in lock up during their strikes. In the last four months alone, at least nine incidents of attacks on railways have been reported from Bihar.
“Given the alarming increase in the number of attacks on Indian Railways we are naturally worried. The attacks are a threat to both human lives and property,” the general manager of East Central Railway (ECR) Mr Girish Bhatnagar told The Statesman.
Owing to the impending threat of an attack, the railways have been forced to run a goods train or an empty loco ahead of a passenger train in the areas infested by Naxalite activities to forestall any possible attacks on the passengers.
“We have to run a goods train or an empty loco in front of a bunch of passenger trains keeping in view the safety of passengers in the areas where Maoists are said to have their dominance,” the ECR GM explained adding: “We need to follow this routine especially during the strike or shutdown calls by the Maoists”.
Mr Bhatnagar, however, said that the number of Maoists attacks on railway tracks, falling under the ECR, was slightly less than last year. Terming Naxalism a national problem, Mr Bhatnagar said the railway and police were doing their best. He said the railways had identified the vulnerable stations and efforts were being made to provide them with full security.
Of the total nine attacks reported this year, six alone have been reported from the ECR region ~ considered the worst affected by Maoists activities since the areas is covered with forests and shares the border with Jharkhand. The latter is one of the greatly infested Naxalite states in India. Official sources said the Maoists have targeted the stations and other railway properties no less than on 45 occasions in between 2003 and 2007 which itself explains the severity of the situation.
“We have no system to quantify the loss yet we can say that even the small blasting of a track derails the entire system and the railways have to suffer a huge loss by way of disruption of train movements for several hours,” Mr Bhatnagar said. “Even if 2-3 feet of tracks are damaged in the blast, we have to replace the entire 13 metres stretch of rail which costs something between Rs 30,000 to 40,000,” he said adding: “The amount is not that big but what is troublesome is that it (blast) holds up many trains for hours”.
The Maoists, however, are not the only menace to reckon with. Other local goons also target railway properties and often loot passengers by terrorising them.
According to a National Crime Record Bureau report issued recently, a total of 646 incidents, including eight murders and 11 incidents of dacoities and loot, have been reported from various rail police stations of Bihar in the last six months.

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