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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Lonely, girl sets herself afire

Calcutta, Jan. 6: A 22-year-old set herself on fire in her Alipore apartment last night to escape what she called a life of loneliness and depression.

Debapriya Banerjee, the daughter of a senior railway official, is now battling for survival in hospital.

The sixth floor apartment at Rail Minar, the residential complex for railway officials, was empty but for Debapriya and a friend who burnt his hands trying to save her.

In the night, neighbours heard a shrill cry. 'There was a knock on the door and we found a youth, trembling and weeping, seeking help to save Debapriya,' said Sushil Kumar, chief safety officer, East Central Railway, who stays on the same floor.

Kumar and other residents rushed to the apartment. 'Her body was burning but she was in her senses. We poured water on her,' Kumar said. She said she was thirsty and was given water before being rushed to BNR Hospital.

Debapriya's father, Goutam Shankar Banerjee, was recently transferred to Gujarat as divisional railway manager, Bhavnagar. He left on November 23. Wife Nanda and daughter followed later.

Debapriya returned with her mother in early December, to sit for the BA (English) final examinations under Indira Gandhi National Open University. The exams ended on December 21 and the two reached Mumbai on January 3 on way to Bhavnagar.

'However, on the same day, she changed her mind and decided to return to Calcutta as she was preparing for the civil services exams,' her father said at the hospital. 'Debapriya said she was feeling depressed and wanted to stay alone for a while and I did not object.' She arrived yesterday.

Deputy commissioner of police Peeyush Pandey said: 'The girl gave a one-line statement saying she was suffering from depression and no one else is to be blamed.'

Debapriya's mother and brother Arjun, a third-year engineering student in Maharashtra, are reaching tonight.

'In 2001, when my son went away to Maharashtra, Debapriya started feeling lonely and was suffering from depression. She writes poetry and is a very sensitive person,' Banerjee said. She had tried to commit suicide once earlier.

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