As the Dhanbad-Chandrapura train services closed from Thursday, protesters pelted an express train with stones, damaging a couple of air-conditioned coaches, and injured the driver of a goods train near Nichitpur railway station in Dhanbad. A few leaders also protested in Katras area. Three people have been arrested in connection with stone-pelting, while another 40 people were detained for staging protest, including a former MLA of Baghmara and a senior Janata Dal (United) leader. However, the district administration officials said that at present the situation was under control and a strict vigil was being maintained.
The line was closed since Wednesday midnight after it was declared unsafe for rail traffic due to underground coalmine fire. As many as 19 trains plying through the Gomoh-Dhanbad stretch have been cancelled. According to the protesters, the movement of trains through alternative routes will not only inconvenience the local passengers but also affect several daily wagers.
Protesters targeted Dhanbad-Alapuzzha Express, which is plying on an alternative route, via Gomoh-Nichitpur to Dhanbad, and a goods train around noon. “Our forces were deployed at Nichitpur. However, the protesters took advantage of the slow moving train and targeted it. A goods train was also stopped. Window panes of a couple of coaches of the express were damaged in stone-pelting, while engine of the goods train was also pelted with stones. When the police reached the spot, the pelters escaped. We have arrested three people from the spot. The train movement is now normal,” said Dhanbad SSP Manoj Ratan Chothe.
In Katras, the protesters tried to shut down all shops early in the morning to call for a bandh. However, by afternoon, the shops opened. Meanwhile, in the absence of the passenger trains, daily commuters preferred autos or shared jeeps to the buses provided specially by the administration to help them.
Officials claimed that the problem of transportation for local people was not a major issue. “There is no dearth of public transport in the district. On the first day, the feedback was that there were not many takers for the buses,” said Dhanbad Deputy Commissioner A Dodde. He added that the main concern at this point was law and order.
To ensure that the situation remains under control, the police had taken more than 250 people under preventive detention since Wednesday. The district police, RPF and GRP are on the ground in full riot gear. “We are keeping a strict vigil on the situation. Section 144 would remain in place. So far, the situation is under control,” said Chothe.