Mumbai:-Thousands of activists of the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday launched a city-wide ‘rail-bharo agitation demanding reopening of suburban train travel for all commuters who are fully vaccinated.
Spearheaded by Leader of Opposition (Council) Pravin Darekar and local legislators in different suburbs, the agitation saw angry activists barging into major railway stations and sitting in local trains.
The police, out in full strength, erected barricades to prevent the activists from entering the railway premises and detained scores who flouted the orders.
Travelling a short distance as a token protest, Darekar said that the Railway Ministry is willing to allow commuters who have taken both their Covid-19 vaccination doses, but want a proposal from the Maharashtra government.
“When the government is allowing flights, BEST and ST buses with restrictions and precautions, then why millions of commuters debarred from the suburban trains, which are the lifeline of Mumbai,” Darekar demanded.
The agitations were held simultaneously at Churchgate, Ghatkopar, Mulund, Borivali, Kandivali, Goregaon, Vile Parle by the local legislators, besides adjoining stations in Thane.
Mumbai suburban trains are barred for ordinary commuters, barring the essential services and other approved categories, since the past 17 months, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
The activists, including many women, carried banners, placards and waved copies of Covid-19 vaccination certificates, raised slogans condemning the state government and trooped inside the railway stations or trains.
The leaders pointed out that depriving the ordinary commuters of local train travel has raised a question mark on their survival as they are suffering from pay cuts or job losses.
“It is very expensive and takes hours to travel from distant suburbs to their workplaces by roads and highways. If liquor bars can start why not local trains,” demanded MLA Atul Bhatkalkar in Kandivali.
Darekar said that the BJP has written several times to the state government to permit the inoculated persons to commute by suburban trains, but there has been no response, and now even the Bombay High Court is considering the same issue.
Making an open appeal to all those who are fully vaccinated to commute in the local trains, he warned that unless the government concedes their demands immediately, the agitation would be intensified.
In pre-pandemic times, Mumbai suburban trains carried over 85-Lakh commuters daily, serving the key regions of Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts.