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Blockade after blaze

Trains between Majerhat and Budge Budge were stalled for over eight hours on Tuesday after residents of an illegal slum that was razed by a fire in the afternoon sat on the tracks at Santoshpur station, demanding compensation from the state government.

More than 80 shanties across 16 bighas of CMDA land, along the railway tracks between Brace Bridge and Santoshpur stations on the southern fringes, were gutted in a fire that started around 1pm on Tuesday. A four-year-old boy died and four other children were injured in the fire.

The child’s body was retrieved from under the debris around 4pm, after the blaze was brought under control.

Following the blockade, as many as 20 trains that left Sealdah from 1.30pm had to be short-terminated at Majerhat station. The police persuaded the protesters to disperse around 8.30pm with a promise to arrange compensation from them.

The residents blamed the Trinamul-run Maheshtala Municipality for the fire. They chased away civic chairman Dulal Das, the father-in-law of mayor Sovan Chatterjee, when he arrived at the spot, throwing bricks and stones at him.

“This was a pre-planned attack. The allegation is baseless.... In fact, we are trying to go into a public-private partnership and build permanent houses for the shanty dwellers,” said Das.

The eight-hour blockade left the busy Taratala crossing — a key junction between the city and the south-western fringes — choked with stranded train passengers waiting for a bus or taxi.