RAIPUR: The special Visakhapatnam-Jagdalpur express train chugged into Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Dantewada district for the first time on Tuesday after the Railways extended it till Kirandul.
“This is the first express category train for the people of the left-wing extremism affected area and we hope it will lead to the development of the area and serve troubled areas,” the Visakhapatnam Divisional Railway Manager, Mukul Sharan Mathur, said.
The train, introduced in April this year, comprises nine coaches -- one AC III tier, three sleeper class, three general second class and two second class luggage cum brake van coaches.
It now covers additional distance of about 150 km across the forested terrain till Kirandul in Dantewada, some 440 km south of Raipur.
Officials said the Maoists had rarely damaged railway property in the past year and a half. The last incident was in 2015. Since the past 40 years, there has been only one passenger train running in the area. Extension of train services till Kirandul has been a long-standing demand of the people. On his recent tour to Chhattisgarh, Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal had promised to extend the train to
Kirandul following a request from Chief Minister Raman Singh. Singh had urged Goyal that such a train would mark a major boost for the railway expansion plan and promote business and development in the tribal-dominated backward region. The train now will connect Kirandul to Delhi, Chennai, Howrah and other major stations via Visakhapatnam.
The overnight train will service Kirandul daily and will be accompanied by RPF personnel.
Officials said that overall security measures have been upgraded in the area and patrolling and intelligence coordination between the varied agencies have also been reviewed. There are 15 stations on the route, including Kottavalasa, Araku, Koraput, Jeypore, and Kotpar Road, Jagdalpur, Dilmili, Kaklur, Dantewada and Bacheli. The train will stop only at four.
The train was flagged off by state minister Kedar Kashyap in the presence of other elected representatives of Bastar zone and senior railway officials. Railway officials said the train to Kirandul would be run on a trial basis for four months, after which a decision would be taken whether to run it regularly.
Apart from intermittent violence, the region has witnessed bandh calls by Maoists. There are fears this will affect trouble-free movement of trains. Often, fish plates are removed from the rail tracks and threatening banners are pasted at stations and on goods train wagons.