Villagers disrupt inaugural run of India-Bangladesh train service

April 14th, 2008 - 5:33 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

Kolkata, April 14 (IANS) The India-Bangladesh Moitree (Friendship) Express was flagged off from here Monday, restoring rail links between the countries after 43 long years. However, it was disrupted for about five minutes after villagers, who believe the service will increase infiltration blocked the track in West Bengal’s Nadia district. “There was an agitation near Gede in Nadia district, close to Bangladesh border, by some villagers. They are against the rail service because they feel it will lead to a rise in infiltration. The demonstrators blocked the track and managed to halt the train for five minutes,” West Bengal Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

“We arrested about 90 people and removed the blockade immediately,” he added.

The trains will run twice a week, on Saturday and Sunday, connecting Kolkata with Dhaka. Two trains will start from each station the same day. The Indian train can carry 368 passengers and the one from Bangladesh 418.

The 538 km journey through the Darshana border, covering 418 km in Bangladesh and 120 km in India, will take about 13 to 14 hours.

The bi-weekly train will leave Kolkata every Saturday and Sunday at 7.10 a.m. and reach Dhaka on same day at 8.30 p.m. as per Bangladesh Standard Time (BST).

Tickets, priced at $8 and $20, can be bought with Indian currency as well.

“The flagging off of this train is a historic event for Indian Railways. It marks the beginning of a new chapter in the bilateral relationship between the two neighbouring countries - India and Bangladesh,” Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav said at the inauguration ceremony.

He said the train service would not only connect the two countries but would also strengthen Indo-Bangladesh cultural ties.

“I am extremely excited to be one of the passengers of this train. I left my country (Bangladesh) in 1964 and came to Kolkata with my parents. After 44 years I am going back to my land where I was born and raised,” Rangalal Chowdhury told IANS.

“I know my house will not be there in Bangladesh now but I will definitely visit my native place in Dhaka to experience the change that has taken place there,” he added.

Passenger train services between the two countries were suspended after a war between India and Pakistan in 1965, when Bangladesh was the eastern province of Pakistan. It became independent in 1971.

Santosh Bosak, another passenger of the Moitree Express, said: “I am going to Bangladesh with my family for the first time. My parents came to India during the partition. One of my sisters is still there at Sreerajganj and I will stay with her for the next couple of days.

“I am just running out of words. I don’t know how to express my feelings. I am really happy,” he added.

Every year almost 600,000 Bangladeshis come to India. In comparison, only 80,000-90,000 Indians go to Bangladesh.

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