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Guard misses three chances to stop robbery

Durgapur, July 30: The guard of the Tata-Chhapra Express whose passengers were robbed by a gang of 30 yesterday has claimed the train had stopped three times on the Purulia stretch where the heist took place but he found “nothing amiss”.

Guard Jogesh Chandra Mudi has said in his report that the train had stopped thrice between Muradi and Madhukunda in the early hours of Thursday because of a “trouble in the vacuum brake”, which senior railway officials said occurs when the chain is pulled. On all three occasions, the guard had signalled the driver to proceed.

However, railway officials and police said that had Mudi got off the train and done an inspection, he would “definitely have come across the robbery”.

Passengers have claimed that a gang member had pulled the chain to get his accomplices in and robbed them of cash, cellphones and other valuables. The victims alleged that 12 of them had been hit with revolver butts or slashed with choppers and knives.

The passengers later beat up the guard, accusing him of being drunk and sleeping through the robbery, which they said lasted one hour. However, the railways said tonight that a breathalyser test on Mudi had found no trace of alcohol.

A.K. Garekar, the divisional railway manager of Adra, said today: “It is true that the train had stopped but the guard has claimed that he did not find anything amiss.”

“Mudi has claimed in his report that he came to know about the heist only after the train stopped at Damodar (the next station),” Garekar said. “The guard is in hospital. We will question him in detail after he is discharged,” he added.

The Government Railway Police (GRP) expressed surprise at Mudi’s claim that he had found “nothing amiss”.

“The five coaches that were robbed were only five bogies ahead of the guard’s cabin. The train stopped thrice but the guard claimed he was unaware of what was happening. It appears that he did not get down for inspection,” a GRP officer in Burnpur said.

The police said that had Mudi been alert enough and tried to find out why the train was being stopped so frequently, he could have informed the stationmasters of either Muradi or Madhukunda over his walkie-talkie and sought help.

The superintendent of railway police, Kharagpur, S.N. Chakraborty, said the police would interrogate the guard and the driver. “We will examine their role during the robbery. We have raided some villages near the spot where the train was stopped and robbed. We are yet to make any arrests. We believe that the gang had local contacts.”

Railway Protection Force officers said they suspected local coal racketeers, who are jobless during the monsoon season, to be behind the robbery.

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