The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drugged, long-distance doze

Malda, Jan. 28: The Srivastavas were in for a shock when they woke up this morning.

The family of five had not only overshot their destination, Ghaziabad, but had also been robbed of Rs 18,000 in cash, gold chains, mobiles and luggage. They had been drugged on board Farakka Express. According to Niraj Kumar Srivastava, he had boarded the train with his wife and three children in Delhi on Friday.

Local Congress MLA Krishnendu Chowdhury and civic councillor Santanu Saha have helped raise some money so that the family can return home by tonight’s train.

“I work in a garments factory in Jalandhar. We reached Delhi on Friday night and boarded Farakka Express, planning to get off at Ghaziabad, less than an hour away. There were four or five women selling cosmetics on the train and one of them sprayed something on us. After that, we don’t remember anything. This morning, we woke up here and found everything gone,” Srivastava said.

The family is grateful to the councillor and the MLA for providing food and money. “We were not alone in the bogie and it is strange that we were the only targets,” Srivastava said.

After the train entered Malda station at 8 pm today, the Srivastavas somehow managed to reach the Englishbazar municipality, 2 km from the station, and ask for help.

Residents of the area felt that the family’s plight was genuine and informed the councillor and the MLA.

“We are going to put them on board tonight’s train and we have collected enough money to pay for their tickets and for other expenses on the train. We have done what the railways should have, considering the fact that they cannot assure passenger safety. What is their intelligence wing doing'” Chowdhury asked.

The Englishbazar MLA claimed that the Srivastavas’ case is not an isolated one and it was virtually every day that railway passengers are drugged and robbed somewhere or the other.

“The railways should take proper measures to ensure that such incidents are not repeated. I will raise this issue in the Assembly and demand that the railways be compelled to compensate passengers who have been looted,” he emphasised.

The inspector-in-charge of the Government Railway Police (GRP) unit here, Swapan Dasgupta, said he had received a complaint from Srivastava. “The incident has not taken place under our jurisdiction, not even in West Bengal. I am forwarding the complaint to the GRP in Uttar Pradesh,” Dasgupta said.

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