Rail services hit by shutdown in Assam

August 8th, 2008 - 4:06 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

Silchar (Assam), Aug 8 (IANS) Schools and offices remained closed and rail services were disrupted in four Assam districts Friday as students and youth organisations called a 12-hour shutdown to protest delay in completion of rail projects. All Cachar-Karimganj-Hailakandi Students’ Association (ACKHSA) called a dawn-to-dusk shutdown across the four districts of southern Assam - Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi and North Cachar hills districts.

Most shops, business establishments, government offices and educational institutions remained closed. Roads wore a deserted look while rail services were also disrupted by protesters blockading the tracks.

“No incidents of violence have been reported so far,” said a police official.

About 150 protesters were arrested by the police from different places of the four districts.

“The dawn-to-dusk strike was total,” said Rupam Nandi Purkayastha, president of the ACKHSA.

The ACKHSA and the All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU), supported by Left parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have been protesting against the delay in Lumding-Silchar broad gauge conversion work since early June.

The foundation stone for the 201-km Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project was laid in 1996 by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and work was supposed to be over by 2006.

The gauge conversion project, declared a national project by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was considered as the lifeline for southern Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur. According to Northeast Frontier Railway, so far 50 people, including construction workers and Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel, were killed by militants in southern Assam after the Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project was undertaken.

“Militancy and acquiring of land besides shortage of funds are the main problems for the gauge conversion project,” a railway official said on condition of anonymity.

Railway authorities on May 15 suspended train services in the Lumding-Badarpur Section and also evacuated about 1,200 railway staff from 13 railway stations of the North Cachar Hills district following a spurt in violence by the separatists group Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel faction), also known as Black Widow.

The construction companies have estimated a loss of about Rs.500 million during April-May due to the spurt in insurgency.

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