Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed shock at the detention of the Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express from Bhubaneswar near Jhargram in West Bengal on Tuesday by the Maoist-backed activists.
As developments unfolded through the day, the Minister maintained that safety of the passengers was the prime concern and it was her duty to coordinate with all concerned to secure the safety of the driver and the passengers, some of whom were reportedly injured in stone-pelting.
In the course of the day, Ms. Banerjee remained in constant touch with Home Minister P. Chidambaram and even told an upset Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik that she was as much concerned as he was at the safety of every passenger.
Railway Board Chairman and members formulated their strategy in tandem with the Union Home Secretary and West Bengal government officials and the exercise paid off as the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) activists eventually allowed the festival special Rajdhani (2443A) with 475 passengers to resume its journey.
Ms. Banerjee spurned a demand for an immediate audience with her, saying that they should instead consider the plight of the innocent passengers whose political stake was limited to exercising their franchise.
Her only grievance during the entire drama was the refusal of civil authorities to permit the RPF from intervening in the matter.
The CRPF was rushed as a precautionary measure. Two contingents moved in once the PCPA activists retreated and together escorted the Rajdhani Express on its onward journey.
The journey commenced only after a relief train took care of the injured and relief materials were made available to the distressed passengers.
While expressing relief at the PCPA allowing the train to move after detaining it for almost five hours, Ms. Banerjee said she would willingly talk to anyone should their demand relate to her department.
Ms. Banerjee refused to go into issues such as who were behind the incident. She said the concern of both the Centre and the West Bengal government was to ensure the safety of the passengers and they worked together as an emergency team with a specific goal in mind.
Similarly, Ms. Banerjee avoided queries on the political ramifications of the episode. “There may be political differences and politicians will come and go, but more important are the lives of the passengers and the people.”