Rlys in Kashmir lose over Rs 5 cr in 3 years

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, May 22: Marred by the unpredictability of the situation in Kashmir, Railways have suffered huge losses in last three years due to frequent suspension of traffic on Baramulla- Banihal railway line.
A top official of Northern Railways said that the train service on 137-kilometer long Banihal -Baramulla rail line has been facing suspensions ever since the killing of militant commander, Burhan Wani, in September 2016 and has suffered a loss of over Rs 5 crores. After the killing, the situation continued to remain uncertain with spurts of violence and protests raging every now and then. He said during strikes the protestors often attack rail installations at several places in South Kashmir – from where violence usually starts – and to avoid any untoward incident, the service is suspended.
Except for one day of the week, 15 pairs of train ferry around 30, 000 commuters, mostly students and employees between Banihal and Baramulla. The official said since the Railways generate revenue from the sale of passenger tickets, snapping of services incur huge losses.  “Railways in Kashmir generate Rs 10 crore annually but the expenditure for the same period is more than Rs 70 crore. And with this loss, the income further declines,” said an official.
Until the month of April this year, the train services were suspended for around 20 days amounting to a loss of nearly Rs.6 lakhs. There were 10 suspensions in the month of April alone when around 51 people were killed in 30 days including 20 militants, 18 civilians and 12 security forces personnel. In the month of January, February and March the train services were canceled for 3, 4 and 4 days respectively.
Last year, as per the figures of Railways, the train was suspended for 44 days as a “precautionary measure” to avoid any damage.  Officials said the highest suspensions were marked in August and October, around this time security forces launched “Operation All Out” in South Kashmir in which nearly 190 militants were killed,  when the service was halted for 9 times each month.
The frequent suspension of the services is taking a toll on the passengers as they have to return from stations owing to the unpredictable nature of the situation here. ” I am a frequent traveler and have returned from the Railway station several times. A commuter cannot call for the status of the train daily”,  Ashiq Ahmad, a daily commuter said.
Vikramjeet Singh, a Railway official said: “We do not see it as loss because the lives of our commuters are of paramount importance to us. We cannot risk the lives of people so the suspensions are only precautionary measure,” he said, adding the loss can be recovered if the situation remains normal.
Another official, however, said that they are mulling various alternative measures. “One of them, we discussed is to ask security forces to strengthen the security near trouble spots. Let’s see if that can be achieved,” he said.?


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