Not even two months had passed since the tragic Gyaneshwari mishap when horror was revisited again in Bengal in the early hours of the 19th of July, 2010. At 1:54 am, the sealdah-bound Uttarbanga Express crashed straight into the rear end of the Vananchal Express, which was leaving the platform at the Saindhia station in the Birbhum District.
Three of the coaches, two unreserved and a luggage van, were completely mutilated, out of which one was thrown onto an overbridge because of the tremendous speed at which the Uttarbanga was travelling when it struck the Vananchal. The fateful result: 62, including both the drivers of the Uttarbanga and the guard of the stationary Vananchal, declared dead and about 90 injured. That number also has a whole story behind it. As told to a news reporter, the locals complained that there was an unreasonable time lag before the railway authorities even came to the rescue.
Yes, the rescue operations were not started by the railway authorities; it was begun by the locals. It was learnt from one of the accounts of a local rescuer that at about 3: 50 am, two gas cutters were brought in by the authorities. Shockingly, nobody from the rescue team managed to get the cutters into a functional state. Consequently, the Locals took the initiative and arranged for, with great difficulty, a gas cutter that sparked off the real rescue: getting the trapped victims out of the mangled coaches. In the wake of another disaster, the locals have yet again emerged as the real helpers. Later, the DGP of West Bengal dispatched more heavy duty gas cutters to support the rescue effort. This tragic incident is clouded with other striking questions:
Why was the Uttarbanga speeding into Saindhia, where it had a scheduled stop?
Saindhia Junction has 4 rail lines; so why were both the trains still on the same track?
The most important question: Why is it that the most damaged of all in most of the train mishaps are the unreserved or sleeper class coaches?
In the last 15 months, this country has seen 11 train mishaps and borne the deaths of many people. I feel hollow even to merely say that it is high time it is realized that no monetary compensation can make good the loss of life. The conflict between the left and Mamata di is taking a heavy toll on the common man. It is time they saw that the railway line is not a political battlefield; not at any cost; certainly not at the cost of innocent human lives. It might have just been rightly said by Ram Vilas Paswan that Mamata Banerjee needs to make a choice between the railways and the Bengal politics; both can’t work together. Evidently.
As to the onlooker, it might have just looked somewhat like this:
For want of order, lives were lost.
For want of timely action, more lives were lost.
For want of a gas cutter, time was lost.
And for want of a full-time railway minister, all safety might be lost.