The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Death specials at distress station

Death visited platform no. 21 of Howrah station not once, not twice, but thrice on Thursday, as more and more bodies of Calcuttans — who died in Monday’s Rajdhani Express mishap in Bihar — returned to the city.

The first special train to arrive brought with it five bodies (9.25 am), the next came in around noon and had 17 and the last, that arrived at Howrah around 9.30 pm, had seven more. Along with them arrived more than 30 survivors.

Like Wednesday’s “Relatives’ Special”, dubbed “Death Special” by those waiting at the station to receive the bodies of their near ones, Thursday’s train, too, sparked reactions ranging from grief to grumbles.

For those at the receiving end — of the coffins and of some “senseless” crowd-control by the railway police — anguish mingled with anger as the police made it impossible for them to take away the bodies, heavy and bloated, via the shortest route.

Platform no. 21, at the far end of the New Complex of Howrah station and adjacent to the drive-way, was picked because of this “specific attribute”, officials had said on Wednesday.

On Thursday, however, law-enforcers made it mandatory for pall-bearers to make their exit through one end of the platform. Everyone was made to walk a few hundred metres from the train to the end of the platform and then again, to the waiting hearses, ostensibly for “easier maintenance of order”.

Yusuf Khan, a father who lost his eight-year-old son, Hamzad, was one of the several hundred who found the arrangement “very disturbing” in this hour of grief.

Yusuf and his wife were in coach AS-1, along with their son and daughter. While Yusuf escaped with an injury on his head, his daughter with a fractured arm and his wife with minor bruises, he lost his son.

“Why am I being made to bear my son’s coffin through this long route'” he asked policemen. A constable shifted uncomfortably. “We can’t even think of forcing the issue with the bereaved,” he admitted, but added that disobeying his superiors was also out of the question. Thankfully, the ‘rule’ was done away with a little later.

But Munna Banerjee was inconsolable. Coming from Bagnan to receive the body of her uncle, Shambhunath Ghosh, she remembered how she had repeatedly told him not to go to Delhi without attending the family puja. “He didn’t listen to me and look what happened to him,” she said, pointing to a coffin placed on platform no. 21.

Ratna Pal, who arrived in the day’s third death-train, had taken the 2301 Up to Delhi with husband Sandip. She returned “with him”; only it was a corpse that accompanied her home.

Then there was Manjit Singh, from Howrah, who was there, at 10 in the night on platform no. 21, to receive the bodies of three relatives (S.P. Singh, Sukhwinder Singh and Jagat Singh). “They would have survived if the authorities were a little quicker in bringing them out,” he alleged.

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