The 41-km Dhanbad-Chandrapura line will close on Wednesday midnight and authorities have geared up to deal with any eventuality. There were a few protests at different railway stations on Wednesday but law and order was largely under control. The administration has clamped prohibitory orders at all the eight railway stations falling on the stretch. District police, GRP and RPF have been deployed.
The line is being closed down for now as it has become dangerous for rail traffic because of a simmering underground coal mine fire. The railways have decided to cancel at least 19 pairs of trains, among them six passenger trains. Seven pairs of trains would be rerouted. Over a dozen of goods trains that use the line for ferrying coal excavated by the Bharat Coking Coal Limited, a subsidiary of Coal India Limited, would be stopped.
There are 13 railway sidings on the stretch and the overall loss of revenue to the railways from the closure of the line is expected to be in the range of Rs 2,500 crore. The police are also keeping track of potential trouble-makers. “We had inputs from various sources about some people wanting to disturb peace. If need be, some preventive detentions may take place. So far, the situation is peaceful,” said DIG (Bokaro Range) Prabhat Kumar.
The Dhanbad district administration has provided for 22 buses that would run from Dhanbad station to Chandrapura. “Depending on the number of passengers, the number of such buses would be increased. The passengers would be charged at Re 1 per km,” said an official. Divisional Railway Manager (Dhanbad) M K Akhouri said the number of passengers had gone down on the last day. “There were minor protests by some leaders on the stretch. But it has all been peaceful. We have been regularly announcing at the stations that the services would come to a halt on this stretch,” he said.
The JMM MLA from Dumri, Jagarnath Mahto, who had earlier announced that he would “take the train from Chandrapura to Dhanbad on the last day” said that he decided against it. “There is little point. The government has already decided and it is not going to listen. We will continue to oppose the move. We are holding protest demonstrations at almost all the stations along the way,” he said.
BJP district president Chandrashekhar Singh, however, said that although it was a sentimental issue and also part of people’s daily needs, the closure of the track was inevitable. “We are confident that people would come to understand that it is being done for their benefit. We have met all the officials concerned. We realise that it is technical matter and not much can be done at this stage. Only some Opposition parties are trying to whip up the issue for the heck of it,” he said.
A programme, as part of the MODI Fest, which was to be organised on Thursday has been postponed. Union Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal was to address the event. However, his programme was cancelled at the last minute, apparently due to the situation arising in Dhanbad.
Asked about it, Singh said: “We had made all the arrangements. But, we got the information at the last minute from the state BJP office that the programme is being postponed due to some unavoidable circumstances.”
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