Agnipath protests: Passengers left in lurch as trains cancelled; air fares go through roof


Passengers take rest and wait at a train station due to delay and rescheduling of a few trains (Photo: afp)

New Delhi: As the Railways have been cancelling over 450 trains on an average per day over the last three days due to protests against the Agnipath scheme, hundreds of passengers were left in the lurch with many unable to avail flights due to high fares.

The Railways on Monday said it has cancelled 587 trains due to the agitations. It had cancelled 483 trains on Sunday and 369 trains a day earlier due to the agitations where protesters set some coaches of trains on fire.

The worst affected zone remained the Eastern Central Railway which is headquartered at Bihar's Hajipur and comprises Sonpur, Samastipur, Danapur, Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, and Dhanbad divisions.

For 38-year-old Neeraj Pandey, it is a nightmare he will never forget. He was scheduled to travel from Ahmedabad in Gujarat to Hajipur by the Ahmedabad-Barauni Express on Sunday night. But he received a message in the afternoon that the train was cancelled due to the protests. He was travelling home to his three children and wife after a gap of almost two months.

"I work at an MNC in Gandhidham and I travelled to Ahmedabad to catch the train. However, I had to spend the day in a hotel and run around to get an alternative route home. Flight tickets were too expensive for me. I have 10-day leave, but I will lose four of those precious days over these protests," said Pandey.

Pandey will now travel by train to Varanasi from where he hopes to board a train to Patna.

"The journey from Ahmedabad to Hajipur would have been for 36 hours while the one from Ahmedabad to Varanasi would take me 34 hours and then I will have to spend five-six hours more to reach Patna," said Pandey.

A cursory search on online travel services firms like MakeMyTrip and Yatra.com showed that the air fares on the routes were in the "high" category. The fare for an Air India flight from New Delhi to Patna for Tuesday was Rs 22,265, while the cheapest flight on the route was Rs 8,332.

Similarly, a flight from New Delhi to Kolkata was available for Rs 10,055 while the cheapest flight on the route was Rs 8,112.

An Air India flight from New Delhi to Guwahati was available at Rs 29,730 while the cheapest one was for Rs 8,552.

Many of those who have been affected by the protests are students travelling to appear for several competitive exams scheduled during the week. This was a concern raised by several on Twitter.

"When so many trains are getting cancelled then how will students from remote villages access their exam centres allotted in far away cities? Kindly look into the matter," tweeted Harsh Kumar, referring to the engineering entrance exam -- JEE Mains -- which is scheduled to be held between June 23 and June 29.

Prajukta Roy, another Twitter user was worried about appearing for law entrance exam CLAT.

"CLAT 2022 is scheduled on June 19. But due to the protest over Agnipath, people are facing problem to reach the test centres. Roads are jammed and innumerous trains are cancelled," she tweeted on June 18.

At Patna railway station, screens with announcements of cancellations ran through the day.

In some cases, passengers from areas where internet had been suspended, only came to know of cancellations after they reached the station.

Government school teacher Rahul Upadhyay, 30, is sure to miss the first day of school in Darbhanga, Bihar, post summer vacations, as he is stuck in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad where he had come for the holidays.

"The school reopens on Tuesday and I am still stuck here. I will try my best to reach Patna as soon as possible. The flight ticket fares are too high for me," he said.

Protests have erupted in several states since last Wednesday against the Agnipath scheme to recruit soldiers in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force for a four-year period, followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits.

Angry mobs have targeted trains and railway properties in their protests against the scheme. Coaches of at least three running trains in the ECR and one empty rake in Kulharia (also in the ECR) were damaged by violent protesters. One coach of a stationary train was also damaged in the washing line at Uttar Pradesh's Ballia.

PTI

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