Punjab unrest: 25,000 passengers stranded in Jammu

May 26th, 2009 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, May 26 (IANS) Over 25,000 stranded passengers, including pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi shrine, were battling scorching heat at the railway station here Tuesday following disruption of train service due to the violent unrest in neighbouring Punjab.
Officials said the trains service will be resumed shortly as the situation in Punjab was returning to normal following violence Monday over the killing of a sect leader in Vienna. Curfew was imposed at many places in the only Sikh majority state of India after violent protests there.

According to officials, there are over 25,000 people, both tourists and Vaishno Devi pilgrims, stranded here.

“We are making all possible arrangements for them,” said Divisional Traffic Manager Ashok Sharma.

At least 19 trains to and from Jammu were cancelled following the Punjab unrest.

Sharma said the Banaras Express train was about to leave the Jammu Tawi railway station.

“We are waiting for signal from Punjab and then we will decide how many more trains can be moved today,” he said.

He said two trains reached Jammu in the morning after crossing Punjab during the night.

“After the services are restored, we will clear all stranded passengers within 24 hours.”

The railway authorities opened special counters to facilitate the cancellation of tickets. Some of the stranded passengers managed to leave Jammu by buses or private cars during the night.

Braving the scorching heat, many passengers are putting up at platforms or the waiting halls of the railway station.

“The guest houses around the area are all full and it is really very difficult to manage in this hot weather with children,” said Rajeev Sharma of Delhi who returned from the hill temple, Vaishno Devi shrine.

Om Prakash Aggarwal, also returning from the pilgrimage, is running short of money. He had to make his family sleep on a railway platform.

“We get limited money when we come on pilgrimage and now we are feeling hard pressed. For the first time in my life, I along with my children have slept on a railway platform.”

Sunil Prabhu, a tourist from Mumbai, had come to visit the shrine with his family - five elders and nine children. He had to cancel return tickets and was finding it difficult to get reservations on any train to Mumbai.

“My brother is standing in a queue for cancellation of tickets and I am here on enquiry counter trying to find out the next possible train that can take us back home,” Prabhu said.

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