The targeting of a Rajdhani express last night is the latest of the over 60 Maoist attacks in the past year in different rail zones, once again exposing the vulnerability of railway properties.
As many as 18 attacks alone were reported in East Central Railway, the zone which also saw yesterday’s attack in which 10 bogies of Delhi-bound Rajdhani express between Gaya and Mughalsarai in Bihar were derailed after Maoists blasted rail tracks.
This stretch has been prone to “increased Naxal activities” for several months now, prompting the Railways to run pilot engines ahead of Rajdhani express trains.
Every day, as many as eight Rajdhani trains pass through this stretch, an important section of the Delhi-Howrah trunk route.
In 2008, Railways reported about 30 attacks on railway properties, but the figure went up to 60 last year. South Eastern Railway saw most of them, with 30 Naxal attacks being registered in the border districts of West Bengal and Jharkhand under its jurisdiction.
Most of the attacks were in the form of rail tracks being blown up or stations being bombed, a railway official said.
Expressing concern over such attacks, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had said earlier this month in Parliament that naxal bandhs and strikes have dealt a blow of nearly 40 per cent to the business of the Railways.
Incidentally, the Bhubaneswar-Rajdhani Express was also the target of the Naxals last October when they managed to hijack the train between Kharagpur and Jhargram in West Midnapore to demand the release of Maoist-backed convener of Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee Chhatradhar Mahato.
Stepped-up Maoist attacks have also been reported on the Howrah-Mumbai route between Kharagpur and Tatanagar section and in Koraput-Rayagada belt where the Naxals have a strong presence.
Last November, two passengers were killed and over 47 injured when eight bogies of the Tata-Bilaspur passenger train derailed after Maoists blew up railway tracks in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district.
Earlier in September, the rebels had triggered about a dozen explosions blowing up railway tracks and at least four government buildings in Sundargarh district of Orissa to demand the release of 30 people who were arrested on August 29 on the suspicion that they were Maoists.
Over 20 heavily armed Maoists attacked the Roxy railway station in the same district and blew it up after asking the employees to move out.
They also abducted three persons, including the station master, besides setting ablaze around 15 vehicles parked near the small railway station used primarily for iron ore transportation.