Thousands stranded in J&K as several trains cancelled due to farmers’ protest in Punjab

Stranded passengers waiting for train operations to resume at Railway Station Jammu on Monday. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Stranded passengers waiting for train operations to resume at Railway Station Jammu on Monday. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Govind Sharma

JAMMU, Dec 20: Thousands of rail passengers have been stranded in Jammu and Kashmir as Railway authorities have suspended almost all outgoing trains from the UT due to farmers’ protest in Punjab.
According to the reports, a section of farmers in Punjab has started ‘rail roko’ agitation and blocked train movement on various routes demanding loan waiver, besides compensation and jobs for families of farmers who died in their agitation against three farm bills. Blocking rail tracks by Punjab farmers led to cancellation of a number of passenger trains to and fro Jammu, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur and Katra railway stations.
The stranded passengers, particularly pilgrims of Mata Vaishno Devi were seen making desperate attempts to get information from railway authorities on departure of trains amid nail-biting cold conditions. After getting no positive response from the railway authorities, many passengers were seen looking for other options to reach their destinations. Huge rush of passengers was witnessed at Jammu Railway Station and the surrounding hotels and guest houses were packed.
Several passengers at Railway Station Jammu were seen boarding mini-buses to reach General Bus Stand Jammu to take buses to reach their destination. Due to cancellation of train services, there was a considerable increase in rush of passengers at Jammu Bus stand since this afternoon. Many passengers were also seen inquiring about taxis to reach their home towns in other parts of the country.
SSP Railways Jammu Arif Rishu told Excelsior that after 3 PM today, no train arrived at Railway Station Jammu from any part of the country. He said similarly, no train departed from here to any other state after 11:30 AM as farmers in Punjab have blocked several rail routes due to unknown reasons. He said there seems less hope of resuming train operations even tomorrow as the farmers are reluctant to lift dharna from the tracks in many areas of Punjab.
Divisional Traffic Manager Jammu Mahesh Kumar said that only a few trains left the Jammu railway station before noon but they are stranded at various places. He said a passenger train is stranded at Kathua while other one is held up at Pathankot. Farmers’ protest in Punjab has forced cancellation of many trains. He said no train will arrive or depart from here till further orders.
Hoshiyar Singh, a young man from Punjab and many of his friends were seen looking for buses or taxis at Bus Stand. “We had come for darshan of Mata Vaishno Devi in Katra and now came to know that all the outgoing trains have been cancelled due to the farmers’ agitation in Punjab,” he said, we all are from Army and have to join our duties the day after tomorrow, so we are looking for a bus or taxis to leave.
A poor family from Bihar was seen enquiring about a ‘sarai’ to spent night. Bilas Rao, head of the family said that they had to leave for their home by train this afternoon but due to cancellation of trains they have stuck here and as they have not enough money to stay in a hotel, they are looking for a ‘sarai’ to spent night as the weather is very cold here.
Meanwhile, the train passengers faced lot of inconvenience when Delhi based train SMVDK Happa Express enroute from Katra to New Delhi was stopped at Kathua Railway Station and was not allowed to proceed to Delhi.
The passengers showed serious resentment over the mismanagement of Railway authorities for not intimating them about stopping the train in mid way.
Train passenger Vivek Kumar said that the Railway authorities did not make any arrangements for passengers and they are facing trouble in this cold weather. After heated exchanges with passengers, the Railway authorities at Kathua decided to take the train to Katra. In such circumstances some passengers left the train and made the arrangements of transport by themselves to proceed towards their destination. Some passengers were helpless and they either returned to Katra or Jammu.