Packed trains spark protest in Kolkata

Kolkata: Sonarpur station turned into a battle zone on Friday as people protested a railway decision to run a train from Canning instead of Sonarpur on the southern fringe.

Their grouse was not getting seats on Sealdah-bound local trains because by the time they reach Sonarpur from Canning — which is further south — they are always packed with people. Hence they wanted another train to originate from Sonarpur.

They alleged that passengers from a Canning-Sealdah train alight at the station and board a Sonarpur local train that leaves four minutes later. “This leads to overcrowding in both trains,” a commuter said.

Eyewitnesses said a group of 50 passengers started the protest around 8.15am and more people joined in soon after. They jumped on the tracks to block trains and some of the protesters threw banana leaves at the overhead power supply cables.

Railway Protection Force and Government Railway Police personnel initially tried to convince the people to withdraw the blockade. “As they refused, a lathicharge was ordered. This triggered a violent retaliation from the crowd,” the eyewitness said.

At least 11 policemen were wounded as the protesters pelted stones.

The violence prompted the authorities to suspend suburban train services in Eastern Railway’s Sealdah south section from 8.28am to 12.20pm.

“The people have demanded change of timings of the Canning-Sonarpur local train, punctual arrival and departure and introduction of more local trains from Sonarpur to prevent overcrowding,” a railway spokesperson said.

Sources said the Canning-Sonarpur local train used to originate from Sonarpur till two months ago. “The train is already packed when it reaches Sonarpur now. Nobody can get in, let alone find a seat,” said Dipak Chatterjee, a commuter.

“The Canning local should reach Sonarpur after the one from Sonarpur pulls out of the station. This will ensure less crowding,” he added.