By Manzar Imam
If you have traveled on Seemanchal Express (12487/12488) during last one or two years, you would bear witness how time-consuming and troublesome train journey could be – huge crowd of people, luggage lying here and there, used papers and leftovers everywhere, no pantry car in a train carrying packed passengers on a 25-hours long journey of 1382 kms which often takes more than 30 hours, and so on. The scene in most other trains passing through Purnea and Kishanganj railway stations of Katihar Division under Northeast Frontier Railway Zone is no different.
These and many such issues were discussed with Union Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu on Wednesday 3 February, 2016. I accompanied Member of Parliament Maulana Mohammad Asrarul Haque Qasmi who raised some of these and other issues before the minister and some top office bearers at the Ministry of Railway, Government of India.
The list of demands included escalator at Kishanganj Railway Station, civic amenities for passengers at Thakurganj, Tayyabpur, and Pothia stations, stopping of Sampark Kranti, Kamkhya Gandhi Dham Express, Dibrugarh-Amritsar Express and Karmaboomi Express at Kishanganj.
The demand also included starting of new trains from Jogbani to Bhopal/Habibganj, Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai. That services of some trains should be extended to Kishanganj, where pit facility is now available, was also demanded.
Senior officers at the ministry contacted some the Northeast Frontier Railway officers and instructed them to look into the matter, check feasibility and, report to the ministry.
The Railway Minister showed eagerness to do what was required to make train journey better and convenient for the people of this area frequently referred to as Seemanchal. How proactively Members of Parliament of Purnea, Araria and Kishanganj take up the issue, would also make a big difference.
It may be noted here that Seemanchal is an area that still lags far behind rest of India and even rest of Bihar in most development parameters. This is an area for which there is no major industrial and economic planning either by the State Government of Bihar or the Central Government. And, if there are any such plans, then people simply aren’t made aware of.
It should also be noted that there is only one pair of train from Jogbani to Anand Vihar Terminal/Delhi which does not have any first class AC coach. It does not even have a pantry car in it. Number of passengers show that there should at least be one more daily train on the route apart from new trains to other destinations like Bengaluru, Bhopal, Hyderabad and Mumbai. If pit facility is the problem, then it must be provided either in Jogbani or Purnea so that more trains could be routed.
Amrapali Express (15707/15708) which remains halted at Katihar for whole day could be extended to Kishanganj or Jogbani as suggested by Araria MP, Mohammad Taslimuddin during his recent meeting with Mr. Prabhu. Kolkata-Jogbani Express (13159/1360), presently running thrice weekly, could be run daily. These and many such issues have also been raised by some concerned people but practically not much has been done.
Being home to one of the largest number of labourers in the country who work in fields of Punjab or hotels, shops and small factories of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru, connecting this area with direct trains to these cities, will open up new avenues of earning for the people as well as generate good revenue for the railways. However, as has been observed, most promises often either remain on paper or are simply not addressed, and if, then they are procrastinated under one pretext or the other.
As 2016 Budget Session of the Parliament is to begin soon, it will be interesting to watch as to what extent these demands are met and with what speed they are implemented.
[Manzar Imam is a Delhi-based journalist hailing from Purnea. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]