A cop holds the remnants of the dynamite sticks after they had been defused. (Gopal Senapati)
Howrah, March 23: Six dynamite sticks attached to detonators fitted with a timer were found this morning in a school bag on a train that had arrived at Howrah from Jaynagar in Bihar.
The black-and-red bag was under a seat and railway workers cleaning the train at the shed at Bamangachhi, near Howrah station, spotted it.
After bomb disposal squad personnel detonated the eight-inch-long sticks in the afternoon, railway police additional director-general Dilip Mitra said: “The dynamite sticks had not exploded as the circuit of the timer attached to the sticks was faulty. Had the dynamites exploded at the station or when the train had passengers, many could have been killed.”
The bag had a purported Maoist poster, which could not be deciphered after the bomb squad doused it with water.
Government Railway Police (GRP) sources said the passenger train had reached Howrah station around 6am. Half an hour later, it was taken to the car shed.
Around 8am, two maintenance staff started cleaning the compartments.
However, despite attempts by the railways to create awareness about the potential danger in unclaimed objects, Loknath Hela and Swapan Chowdhury opened the bag to see what was inside.
“The duo were sweeping the floor of compartment No. 6 when they saw the school bag under a seat. They first thought someone had left it by mistake and opened it. They found some red pipe-like objects and a clock inside. They immediately informed the Railway Protection Force (RPF),” said a colleague of the duo.
Mitra said the cleaners took out the bag and placed it in the open space between two trains. “They should not have touched the bag,” admitted Mitra.
The discovery of the dynamite sticks in the car shed also threw up the question why they were not detected during the mandatory inspection of the train before it was taken to the shed.
Mitra said it was “not always possible” to check each train, though that is the norm. “It is true that every train should be checked by the railway police and other railway staff. But it is not always possible to check each and every train on arrival in Howrah because of lack of manpower.”
Senior RPF and GRP officers reached the car shed around 11am. The CID’s bomb disposal squad was also called in.
After RPF dog Caesar sniffed the bag and became excited, the police became sure that the bag contained explosives, said senior RPF commandant Rajaram.