Anti-railway protest halts iron ore shipments (Lead)

January 19th, 2012 - 12:48 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Raipur, Jan 18 (IANS) A protest to demand better railway connectivity in insurgency-hit, mineral rich Bastar region of Chhattisgarh held up iron ore shipments by state-run National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) Ltd. for the sixth consecutive day Wednesday, an official said.

“NMDC could not transport iron ore from its mines as the railways refused to provide rakes due to the protest,” S.P. Himanshu, deputy general manager of NMDC Ltd, posted in Dantewada district, told IANS.

The mines are located some 420 km south of state capital Raipur in one of the worst Maoist-hit districts, Dantewada.

The NMDC mines in Chhattisgarh account for about 75 percent of its total annual iron ore production, which stood at 25.16 million tonnes in 2010-11.

“There is a total halt in iron ore transportation,” Himanshu said.

The firm transports a little over 40,000 tonnes of iron ore daily from its Dantewada mines.

The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has organised the protest since Jan 13.

“Hundreds of protesters have squatted on tracks on K-K (Kothavalasa-Kirandul) rail line in Dantewada and Bastar for the past six days,” said M.R. Nayak, a railway official based in Bastar region that includes Dantewada.

“They are demanding better railway connectivity in Bastar, forcing us to cancel trains indefinitely from Bailadila sector (in Dantewada) to Visakhapatnam (in Andhra Pradesh),” he added.

The BJYM said Wednesday that it will not call off the protest against railways till a written assurance was given for providing more train services to the sprawling 40,000 sq km backward Bastar region.

Chief Minister Raman Singh underlined the need of better rail facilities in Bastar and stated that he would take up the issue with the railway minister.

“The enhancement of rail facilities in tribal-dominated Bastar region is very essential, I will take up the issue with the railway minister,” Raman Singh said in an official statement Wednesday.

He termed the ongoing movement in Bastar as “an issue linked to public sentiments”.

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