Trains to Katra for Navratri cancelled due to farmers’ agitation in Punjab
Vande Bharat and Shri Shakti Express, scheduled to run from Delhi on Thursday were cancelled at the last minuteUpdated: Oct 15, 2020, 10:59 IST
Even as the Jammu and Kashmir administration mobilised its resources to ensure strict adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines ahead of nine-day long Navratri festival in Katra, two trains—Vande Bharat and Shri Shakti Express, scheduled to run from Delhi on Thursday—were cancelled at the last minute in view of the farmers’ agitation in Punjab over the controversial agrarian laws.
Director of Jammu Railway station and senior divisional traffic manager Railways Sudhir Singh, said, “Vande Bharat and Shri Shakti Express trains from Delhi to Katra have been cancelled due to the farmers’ agitation in Punjab. Every day it appears that the farmers’ agitation will subside but it’s still lingering.”
“Till it ends, trains can’t be run. Now we will see on Friday if we can run them,” he added.
The official said that a passenger train usually transports1,000 passengers.
“However, it depends upon ticketing and how many people want to visit the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine,” he added.
“The Jammu and Kashmir administration, in tandem with the railways, has made all arrangements for the Navratri festival. The first Vande Bharat train had to run on Thursday. Now, we will see if we can run it on Friday,” he said.
The administration has made Covid-19 testing arrangements in Katra, Udhampur and Jammu. Security is also in place at Katra and the Vaishno Devi shrine.
Reasi district police chief, SSP Rashmi Wazir, said, “We have deployed five quick reaction teams in Katra and three in the Bhawan (the sanctum sanctorum). There are eight police checkposts along the tracks leading up to the cave shrine and there will be round-the-clock patrolling during the festival.”
She added that armed security personnel, policemen and CRPF personnel will guard the pilgrimage site 24x7.
“We are confident of an incident-free Navratri festival,” she said. Wazir said Udhampur-Reasi range deputy inspector general of police, Sujit Kumar, reviewed the arrangements for the festival in Katra on Tuesday.
“The cap on per day pilgrims to the shrine has been increased to 7,000 from 5,000. During the festival, two special trains, apart from Vande Bharat, will also run from Varanasi and Delhi,” she added.
The health department has also augmented its infrastructure, setting up more testing kiosks and staff in Katra, including the railway station.
Every pilgrim arriving in Katra will have to undergo a rapid antigen test (RAT) before being allowed to proceed on the pilgrimage.
In case anyone tests positive, they will have to be quarantined in Katra for 10 days. A few hotels have also been identified for paid quarantine.
However, if persons who test positive don’t want to be quarantined for 10 days, they can avail cabs to return home by road.
Reasi district commissioner Indu Kanwal Chib said, “There are 10 testing kiosks at the Katra railway station for the visiting pilgrims and five more will be added depending upon the bookings.”
“Covid-19 testing arrangements are in place. Our health staff has also been augmented. We are prepared for the yatra to begin this Saturday.”