Suspension of train operations along the 185-km and militant-affected Lumding-Badarpur hill section in Assam has caused a massive food crisis in the three Northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.
Following hectic rounds of inter-ministerial discussions involving officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Home ministry over the past fortnight, Indian Railways is bracing up to transport 70,000 tonnes of rice and wheat to the three grain-starved states by month-end.
Given the monthly requirement of 60,000 tonnes of food grains for the three states, Indian Railways needs to run three goods trains each day to achieve the target of transporting 2,000 tonnes of grains per day.
"Operations have been partially restored since May 25," said Ashutosh Swamy of Northeast Frontier Railway. One needs to take a call on re-starting passenger operations along the route, he added.
Locomotives on the route are being retrofitted with bullet-proof steel sheets and glasses. "Security patrol trains" will run ahead of goods trains. Bulletproof jackets will be provided to drivers and railway staff on duty.
A Jalandhar-based firm has been awarded the refurbishment contract and eight locomotives have been taken up in the first phase. The first of these bulletproof trains should start to ply from the coming Sunday, Swamy said.
Security along the route has been beefed up with the deployment of three companies of the Railways Protection Force (RPF) in addition to the army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and Assam Police personnel.