Barmer: A halt for the Jodhpur-Karachi Thar Express here has emerged as one of the main electoral issues as two lakh residents having family or business ties with Pakistan want easy boarding point for the cross-border train.
Thar Express that runs between Jodhpur and Karachi is the only means for people to travel to Pakistan from this remote Rajasthan district, having a total of 16 lakh voters.
Though Munabao, the last point on the Indian side of the border, is approximately 140 km from here, people wanting to visit Pakistan have to board the train from Jodhpur which is 200 km away in opposite direction. The train stops at Munabao only for customs and immigration checking.
Even from the station here, people cannot board or deboard.
People looking to visit Karachi have to first reach Bhagat ki Kothi station in Jodhpur nearly six hours prior to the departure of the train.
At the station, checking of luggage and travel documents is done after which doors of the train are locked. The train starts at 1 AM and via Barmer reaches Munabao at 7 AM after which it enters Pakistan at the zero point station from where the onward journey to Karachi continues.
According to estimates, nearly two lakh people live in the areas around Barmer who have either migrated here from Pakistan or have family ties there.
The train service was stopped after the 1965 war with Pakistan before recommencing in 2005. It is the lifeline for Sindhi and Muslim community members who have strong family, religious and business ties across the border.
Congress MP Harish Chaudhary had promised the community he would ensure a stop for Thar Express at Barmer and Munabao for which Muslims supported him. But his failure in fulfilling that promise may go against him in this election.
But the issue may help the chances of rebel BJP leader Jaswant Singh, who is credited with getting the train service reopened.
"Although the train was actually flagged off when Lalu Prasad was the Railway Minister during UPA-I. But we know it was the efforts of Singh which bore fruit," said Bhawani Shankar Sharma, a businessman.