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WB accident is Maoists' 65th strike on railways in last one year

Source: PTI
May 28, 2010 18:58 IST
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The Jhargram train attack that killed at least 75 people on Friday is the latest of the over 65 Maoist attacks in the past one year that have targeted the railways. The Left-wing extremists have carried out four attacks on railway properties in May alone.

On May 19, they triggered a landmine blast on railway tracks near Jhargram in West Midnapore district, injuring two drivers of a goods train and leaving the engine partially damaged.

The next day, 14 oil tankers of a goods train derailed and caught fire after Maoists blew up railway lines between Dighwara and Pipra stations in Bihar. Two days later, two persons, including a policeman, travelling in the Tatanagar-bound Steel Express, were injured in the cross-fire between Maoists and joint forces at Banstala station in West Midnapore.

In April, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee told Parliament that incidents of attacks by Maoists have nearly doubled to 58 in 2009 from 30 in the previous year. In 2007, 56 such attacks were reported.

Banerjee admitted that because of such attacks, railways has lost nearly Rs 500 crore.

"Railways have become a target of Naxals. We have lost Rs 500 crore because of Naxal bandhs and obstructions," she had said.

During the period of Maoist attacks, bandhs and rail obstructions, train operations have been badly affected. Attacks on trains happen mainly in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, Banerjee had said.

According to officials, over 20 attacks alone were reported in East Central Railway, the zone which witnessed an attack on Delhi-bound Bhubaneswar Rajdhani express on March 22. Ten bogies of the train between Gaya and Mughalsarai in Bihar were derailed after Maoists blasted rail tracks.

Concerned over the alarming regularity with which Maoist-led attacks were taking place, railways even mulled stopping train movement during night time in the Central Indian Coalfield areas (mostly the mineral-rich places in states like Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattishgarh) -- a proposal which is being revisited today after the attack on Gyaneshwari Express.

These stretches have been prone to increased Maoist activities for several months now, prompting railways to run pilot engines ahead of Rajdhani express trains. Each day, as many as eight Rajdhani trains pass through this stretch, an important section of the Delhi-Howrah trunk route, officials said.

The South Eastern Railway witnessed most such attacks last year, as 30 such attacks were registered in the border districts of West Bengal and Jharkhand, under its jurisdiction. One among them was the hijack of the Bhubaneswar- Rajdhani Express last October to demand the release of the convener of People's Committee against Police Atrocities Chhatradhar Mahato. The train was released after eight hours.

Stepped-up Maoist attacks have also been reported on the Howrah-Mumbai route, between Kharagpur and Tatanagar section, and in the Koraput-Rayagada belt where the Maoists have a strong presence. In November 2009, two passengers were killed and over 47 injured when eight bogies of the Tata-Bilaspur passenger train derailed, after Maoists blew up railway tracks in Jharkhand's West Singhbhum district.

Earlier in September, the rebels had triggered nearly a dozen explosions, blowing up railway tracks and at least four government buildings in Sundargarh district of Orissa, to demand the release of 30 people who were arrested on suspicion of beingre Maoists.

Over 20 heavily armed Maoists attacked the Roxy railway station in the same district and blew it up after asking the employees to move out. They also abducted three persons, including the station master, besides setting ablaze nearly 15 vehicles parked near the small railway station, used primarily for iron ore transportation.

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