Ill passenger dies as Cooch Behar rail blockade continues

Kolkata, Feb 21 (IANS) A man died due to lack of medical aid after his train was delayed by over 10 hours on Sunday — the second day of the indefinite rail blockade by the Greater Cooch Behar People’s Association (GCPA) demanding statehood or union territory status for Cooch Behar in northern West Bengal.

Train services continued to be disrupted with slogan-shouting GCPA activists laying siege to the tracks at New Cooch Behar station seeking dialogue with union home ministry officials to resolve the issue.

Benoy Thakur, a 29-year-old hailing from Begusarai in Bihar, was travelling to Kishanganj by the Kanchanjunga Express to seek medical help.

His condition deteriorated on the way, but he could not get medical aid as the general compartment he was travelling in was packed, with the train running way behind schedule.

After the train halted at Alipurduar Junction station on Sunday morning 10 hours late, he was taken to a hospital, but doctors declared him dead.

Meanwhile, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu appealed to the squatters to let the trains move unhindered.

“I appeal to all my friends in West Bengal, please do not block the traffic. Let the traffic flow. Your grievances can be dealt with separately,” Prabhu said here while launching a series of projects in Bengal.

He said he intended to launch a project which runs through Cooch Behar in Bengal but could not do so because of the indefinite ‘rail roko’ (blockade) agitation.

“I appeal to all the demonstrators who have a genuine grievance, they should not block railway tracks. They have the right to demonstrate and that is a democratic right. We respect that right.

“We appeal to you because the common man is inconvenienced whenever there is a demonstration which results in stoppage of train services. People who travel by train, most of them can’t afford or don’t have any other commuting options,” Prabhu added.

Meanwhile, a large number of trains were stranded, terminated or diverted due to the agitation that began on Saturday morning.

Local passenger trains in New Jalpaiguri-Coochbehar section were cancelled and the important long distance train diverted.

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