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Commuters turn violent as train services disrupted in Thane, Mumbai
Friday January 2, 2015 7:46 PM, IANS

Hundreds of thousands of commuters were hit hard in Thane and Mumbai Friday after a disruption in suburban train services in Thane sparked widespread violence, officials said.

Mumbai Local

Police used batons to check mob violence, while Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other ministers appealed to angry commuters to keep calm. The services were partially restored hours later.

Thousands rushing to work in south Mumbai and other areas were left stranded as the train services were disrupted after an overhead pantograph snapped near the Thakurli railway station in Thane around 6.45 a.m.

Many commuters started impromptu protests by squatting on the railway track at the next station, Diva.

Police used batons to clear the tracks, prompting violence by commuters who attacked rail officials and injured a motorman. Others threw stones at vehicles parked outside the station.

Ten coaches of Central Railway were damaged.

Additional security forces were rushed but the crowds damaged around half a dozen private and government vehicles. There were reports of three vehicles being set on fire.

The protesters attacked stalls and railway property. Also damaged were railway property including seven Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs) besides three booking counters at Diva and a level crossing gate.

The protests spread to Dombivali station where six ATVMs were ransacked and two ticket booking counters vandalized.

The chaos resulted in a virtual paralysis of the suburban train network - the lifeline of Mumbai which ferries over seven million people daily - servicing the crucial Mumbai-Thane-Raigad region.

After nearly six hours, Central Railway started skeletal services afternoon but the working day was wasted for several thousands of stranded office-goers.

Thane Guardian Minister and Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde and Minister of State for Home Ranjit Patil rushed to Diva and appealed to commuters to remain peaceful.

"We are aware of the acute problems the commuters are facing on this section... The central government has been apprised of this and steps are being initiated to mitigate the issues," Shinder said.

"I appeal to commuters to cooperate with the authorities," he said.

Furious commuters blasted the state and central governments and the railways for not seriously attending to the complaints of Mumbai commuters who have been at the receiving end for decades.

"Grandiose schemes are announced, but where is the implementation?" asked one irate commuter, A.R. Patil.

"Even a minor problem like a broken pantograph can derail the entire system. How is this possible? Why is there no alternative? People have to suffer regularly due to the apathy of the railways."

The MSRTC, Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Transport, Thane Municipal Corp and Mumbai's BEST deployed additional buses to clear the rush of stranded commuters but most preferred to return home.

The trouble hit the departures of at least five long-distance trains including Mumbai-Pune Sinhagad Express, Mumbai-Nagpur Sewagram Express, Mumbai-Gondia Vidarbha Express, Mumbai-Ferozepur Punjab Mail and Mumbai-Howrah Mail. Most were delayed by five-six hours.


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