Protests grind transport services to a halt
Railways ministry officials said that several northeast-bound long-distance trains from other parts of the country were being terminated at Guwahati.Updated: Dec 13, 2019 02:43 IST
The violent protests against the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB have disrupted rail and air traffic in the Northeast and led to the suspension of all passenger train operations in Assam, Tripura and Mizoram as well as cancellation of at least 15 flights between Guwahati and Dibrugarh – the two main airports in the state – were cancelled until 7 pm.
Railways ministry officials said that several northeast-bound long-distance trains from other parts of the country were being terminated at Guwahati. Three major long-distance trains--Sikkim Sundari Express from Anand Vihar in New Delhi to Agartala in Tripura, Dibrugarh-New Delhi Rajdhani and Dibrugarh-Chandigarh Express--have been cancelled, they added.
Tamal Roy, who was on board the Donyi Polo Express from Itanagar, reached Guwahati station on Thursday morning, where he had to keep waiting as auto-rickshaws turned him down, citing the closure of fuel depots.
Roy told news agency PTI that he and two other passengers finally managed to get hold of one auto-rickshaw, which took them to a particular point from where they had to travel on foot to reach their destination.
The officials said that railway services in Tinsukia, Lumding and a major part of Rangiya division of the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) have been completely suspended.
“Beyond Guwahati, too, passenger train operations have been stopped. From Delhi and other parts of the country, trains going towards Assam will return from Guwahati. Some of the trains, whose linked rakes could not be returned from NFR, will stand cancelled from Delhi and other parts of the country,” an NFR railways spokesperson said.
There have been at least two arsonist attacks on railway stations in Dibrugarh’s Chabua and Panitola in Tinsukia district.
One of the officials cited above said that the railways also plans to deploy a special unit of Commando for Railway Security across sensitive areas in the region.
Armed forces have been deployed across Assam as thousands of people protesting against the CAB took to the streets on Wednesday evening, clashed with police and plunged the state into chaos.
Several passengers at the LGB International Airport and Guwahati Railway Station were stranded on Thursday, due to either cancellation or delay of flights and trains, the officials said.
The civil aviation ministry had earlier said movement of passengers at Dibrugarh airport in Assam has been disrupted, owing to blockage of road transportation to and from the aerodrome.
The stranded passengers have been evacuated in a phased manner, the ministry said in a series of tweets.
Sanjiv Jindal, regional executive director (north east), Airports Authority of India, said, “Of the 100 flight operations in Guwahati, only six flights were cancelled on Thursday. However, all nine flight operations at Dibrugarh airport were cancelled. IndiGo operated a special flight from Kolkata to Dibrugarh to bring 178 stranded passengers to Kolkata. AAI operated buses from Dibrugarh and also provided food to stranded passengers from a nearby army canteen. Airports that shut during nights have been kept open so that people can remain in the airport by simply showing their identity card. Currently, no passenger is stranded at Dibrugarh.”
IndiGo, which operates 20 flights to Guwahati and three to Dibrugarh, said in an official statement: “We urge passengers to check their flight status before leaving home. We are operating relief flights at capped fares for passengers who are currently at these locations. Additionally, we are offering rescheduling/cancellation fee waiver to the passengers travelling to/from Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Jorhat till December 13, 2019.”
Apart from IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir, too, said they will provide a full refund and cancellation charges till December 13.
A GoAir spokesperson said that there may be road and other transportation disruptions causing delays for passengers on their way to the Guwahati airport. “GoAir is offering a waiver on date change fees/rescheduling of tickets for travel to and from Guwahati till 13th December.”
Vistara is offering the waiver till Sunday. The full-service carrier said that its flight UK725 that operates from Bagdogra to Dibrugarh and return flight UK726 were cancelled on Thursday.
Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said, “Due to the unrest, our flight AI 706/ 707 from Kolkata to Dibrugarh and return has been cancelled due to the ongoing situation.”