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Train torment takes away ‘freedom’

The journey to and from home will never be the same again for the young Tata Consultancy Services employee who fell off a moving train while trying to escape a tormentor near Belur station on Sunday afternoon.

“She is a brave girl. She wants to continue working. But we can’t let her travel by train alone anymore. We will have to arrange for some protection every time she travels,” the 25-year-old woman’s father told Metro.

The “protection” he was talking about is something women on the move in and around Calcutta are increasingly being forced to accept: the company of a man they can trust.

“Either her elder brother or I will accompany her between Asansol and Calcutta. She had travelled alone so many times earlier and we couldn’t have imagined that such a thing could happen to her. Now we won’t take a chance,” said the father, a trader based in Asansol.

The young woman’s parents arrived in Calcutta early on Monday and visited her in the intensive therapy unit of Belle Vue Clinic.

Doctors said the victim, who works for the BPO unit of TCS in Salt Lake’s Sector V, was a tough woman who was fighting hard to get over the incident. “She has pain in the left shoulder and we suspect a crack in one of the fingers of her left hand. She has already had stitches on her forehead,” critical care expert Subrata Maitra said.

The result of a CT scan done late on Sunday was reassuring for the woman and her family. Doctors said no internal injury showed up in the scan.

A man in a lungi had cornered the 25-year-old in the empty ladies’ compartment of the Delhi-Howrah Janata Express, chased her around and tried to touch her. The accused also pulled down windows so that nobody spotted him or heard the victim’s screams.

The woman’s brother said she kicked her tormentor and fought him off when he tried to grab her left arm. She pulled the chain near Belur and the train slowed down but didn’t come to a halt.

She hasn’t been able to recall whether she fell through the emergency window while trying to evade her tormentor or jumped out just as the train slowed down.

The brakes of a train are interconnected through a vacuum pipe from the engine till the guard’s compartment. If the driver applies the brakes, the pipe is filled with air and all the compartments stop simultaneously.

“When someone pulls the chain, the brakes are first activated in that particular compartment. Then the pipe is filled with air and the rest of the train slows down. The train takes more time to stop than when the driver applies the brakes,” a railway official explained.

The chain alarm system is known to malfunction, though. When that happens, the train might only slow down instead of coming to a halt.

The young woman who pulled the chain to save herself wouldn’t have known that, just like lakhs of other train travellers.

The TCS employee has been with the company for three years and regularly travelled alone between her hometown Asansol and Calcutta. It’s only since last April that she has had her brother, a newly recruited English teacher at St. Thomas’ Boys School in Kidderpore, for company.

On Sunday, she was returning to Calcutta after a chicken pox-induced break. Her brother said she wanted to resume work on Monday itself despite being injured and traumatised.