'I am helpless and there is no one to help me.'
'I have been on this platform since Saturday.'
M I Khan reports from Patna.
Rajendar Singh, Parbhavati Devi, Abdul Subhan and Parween Kumar have been stranded at the Patna railway station since Friday, June 17, 2022, as dozens of trains were cancelled because of the ongoing protests against the central government's Agnipath scheme for recruitment into the armed forces.
About 400 passengers are stranded at the Patna railway station.
Reports reaching Patna suggest that thousands of passengers have been stranded at different railway stations across Bihar for the last four days.
Neither the Indian Railways nor the Bihar government appears to have made arrangements to help these stranged passengers onward in their journey.
Some of them are likely to board trains at night because trains that pass through Bihar -- the state which has seen several trains burnt during the Agnipath protests -- are not permitted to operate in the day time.
With protests continuing against the Agnipath scheme in Bihar on Monday, East Central Railway official Birdndar Kumar says 348 trains were cancelled, including long-distance trains.
"Trains were cancelled and a few of them were rescheduled in view of the violent protests that mainly targeted trains and railway stations last week," says Kumar.
"When I reached here on Saturday, I found that an express train in which I was to travel to Bengaluru was canceled," says Rajendar Singh, a retired Indian Army soldier.
"I have been staying on platform No 1 since then," Singh adds.
"I was informed by the railway officials that an express train will leave for Bengaluru on Monday night and I am hopeful I will board it," says Singh, who is in his mid 60s and a resident of Jehanabad district.
He is on way to Bengaluru to visit his son, who is employed as a software engineer at a multinational company.
Singh feels the anger against the scheme is genuine because Agnipath shatters the youth's dreams to serve the defence forces for years, but the retired soldier says they should not have set ablaze trains or vandalised railway stations to register their protest against the scheme.
"As a former army havildar, I feel strong sympathy for the protesting youth," says Singh, "but they should protest peacefully."
Prabhavati and her son have been waiting at the railway station since Friday after their train was cancelled due to the protests.
"What can we do except waiting for a train to Vellore for medical treatment?" Prabhavati asks.
"My consultation with a cancer specialist (at the Christian Medical College hospital in Vellore) was on Monday and I am still here. I am not sure when we will reach there," says Prabhavati, who is in her mid 50s and a resident of Vaishali district.
"I have to request him for consultation on another date as I am not keeping well," she says.
Subhan and his family of four have been spending time on the platform at Patna station since Friday, waiting to board a train for Punjab.
"On Saturday night, a train departed, but it was overcrowded," says Subhan. "There was no space to enter the coach," he said.
Subhan said all the food he brought from home was over, adding that it is not feasible to buy food for five people from restaurants outside the station.
"I am running short of money as well and find it difficult to manage. There is still uncertainty over the train movement," he says.
Parween Kumar, who works at a plastic factory in Maharashtra, was scheduled to join duty on Sunday. Now he is awaiting a train on Monday.
"I am helpless and there is no one to help me. I have been on this platform since Saturday. The railways cancelled most trains," he says.
More than 30,000 passengers cancelled their reserved train tickets after the violent protests began.
Umesh Kumar of the Patna-based Gayan Tour and Travel agency says passengers, who had booked their summer vacation to different hill stations and tourist destinations, have cancelled their train tickets fearing violence.
Ajit Singh, who along with his wife and children, had booked tickets to Dehradun, had to cancel it because of the protests.
Rachna Agarwal canceled her family's tickets for Himachal Pradesh.
Upender Kumar, a student, cancelled his ticket for Delhi, where he was expected to join a coaching centre this week for the Union Public Service Commission exam.
When trains got cancelled, air ticket prices reportedly jumped manifold.
At the Patna railway station, railway porters and vendors on the platforms vent their ire against the protesters.
"Trains are our livelihood. In the absence of trains, we earn zero income," says Vijay Yadav, a railway porter.
East Central Railway officials say the violent protests resulted in huge loss of revenue apart from the damage to its properties worth more than Rs 250 crore (Rs 2.5 billion).
More than 60 bogies of over 12 trains were set on fire; more than half a dozen engines were also set ablaze allegedly by the protesters.
Security at all the railway stations in Bihar has been tightened. There is a police presence at the entrance to railway stattion platforms.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com