GUWAHATI, Aug 14 - For Sheetal Sharma of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, the life-long dream to have a darshan of the Kamakhya Temple has turned out to be an experience she would prefer not to have.
Sharma, who is part of a group of 17 pilgrims, including kids and women, has been left stranded at the Guwahati Railway Station after her train was cancelled due to the floods and inundation of rail tracks in Bihar, which has severed links between the North East and the rest of the country.
�We had booked tickets for the North East Express till Etawah and our train was scheduled for 10.30 am today. However, when we reached the station, we found out that it has been cancelled. So we are stuck,� said Sharma, who along with her companions spent the entire day at the platform. The members of the group had spread shawls and bed-sheets on the floor and spent the day either chatting among themselves or taking a nap or visiting the inquiry counter to ask about the latest status of services.
�Money is the biggest problem for us. We had not brought much cash with us and nor did we bring our ATM cards as our trip was only to last for three-four days. We had only come to pay obeisance at the Kamakhya Temple,� said Sharma.
However, she and the other members of her group did get refund for their tickets.
A major problem faced by stranded lady passengers is of using toilets and bathrooms. The number of toilets at the station is very few and the condition of those is also not very hygienic. Shyam Bihari Sharma, another member of the group, said that no help or assistance has been provided by the railway authorities.
�They just gave refund for our tickets and have left us to fend for ourselves. Even lodges located near the railway station are already full as hundreds of stranded people like us are making a beeline for those and charges in such places are very high,� he said.
Besides women, kids also had a harrowing time due to the wait, which is now expected to turn out to be quite a long one.
Samarjit Haldar of Kolkata was scheduled to depart by the Kamrup Express to Howrah yesterday. But like thousands of others, he is stranded at the Guwahati Railway Station.
�Last night I took a room in a nearby lodge. But I cannot continue like this. It is not possible for everybody to take flights. So I am thinking of making a journey by road to Jalpaiguri and then proceed to Kolkata,� Haldar said.
Biren Masih and his six companions, all from Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, had come to the North East to visit tourist spots in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya and were scheduled to depart to Howrah by the Saraighat Express.
�But now we are stuck at the station since morning. We have no idea how long our wait will be. Our train has been cancelled. We have made repeated visits to the Information Centre but failed to elicit anything regarding the status of the services,� Masih said.
Suresh Bapat and his family were also scheduled to depart by the North East Express to Delhi. �We are facing a lot of inconvenience. My kids are complaining of the humidity here. How long can we stay at the station? We cannot afford hotels or lodges for long duration and nobody is sure when services will resume. The railway authorities also have a responsibility towards us. They should at least arrange for our food and accommodation,� he said.
On being contacted, Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) officials said that ticket refund windows and catering units at the Guwahati Railway Station are being kept open round-the-clock. �Crowds at Guwahati and other stations are getting thinner. Our staff are assisting the stranded passengers,� said an official.