New Delhi, Dec 20 (IANS) Despite large scale destruction of railway property in three divisions, West Bengal government was hesitant to rope in Central paramilitary forces, resulting in maximum damage of state assets in the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
At several troubled sites, including Malda, the District Magistrate (DM) and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) did not reach the spot in time. On Centre’s intervention, the Chief Secretary of West Bengal finally instructed the local authorities to reach the spot and tame the violent mob of protesters.
According to a top railway official at the Rail Bhawan here, due to the laid back response of the state government, extensive damage of railway property has been reported from Howrah, Sealdah, Malda and Katihar divisions amounting to more than Rs 80 crore.
“Had the Chief Secretary not intervened, the damages would have been more extensive. At the last moment, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) stationed locally was moved in to save the situation from getting worse,” said the official.
The protesters resorted to large scale violence and indulged in arson, damaging the Maitree Express, the train which runs from Kolkata to Dhaka. More than two stations, located on Bangladesh border were vandalised and railway property was burnt.
After a prima facie enquiry, 66 cases were registered under the jurisdiction of Eastern Railway (ER), which primarily runs through West Bengal. Three cases have been registered under the jurisdiction of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR). Sixteen cases were registered relating to destruction of property in the area falling under South Eastern Railway (SER).
Twenty-one people have been arrested for damaging NFR property, but no arrests could be made yet in the cases registered in ER and SER which operate largely in West Bengal.
Sources revealed to IANS that Indian Railways is now contemplating to file civil cases to claim the damages caused during the violent protests.
A committee of Railways had earlier recommended that to claim damages, the department can file civil cases, particularly in matters related to wide scale violence wherein railway property was damaged.
“We are in a process to file a suit. The reason is that Railways cannot afford to bear such damages which run into several crores of rupees,” said an official.