Jeopardy junction: A boy crosses railway tracks, risking his life, as the rusted footbridge framework looms in the backdrop at McCluskieganj station, near Ranchi.
Low-lying platforms (below) mock the safety rule book too. Pictures by Prashant Mitra
Call it the Indian Railways’ shame in Jharkhand’s breathtaking bungalow town.
McCluskieganj — situated on the idyllic Chotanagpur Plateau 65km from capital Ranchi — is a classic example of how sustained indifference can put thousands of human lives at risk for decades.
Back in the Nineties, a footbridge was proposed at the busy junction, but only to rust without a single day’s use. The reason is bizarre. The railways, which installed iron pillars and frameworks for stairways, conveniently forgot to join them with a common elevated landing to offer passengers risk-free passage over the tracks.
This is not the sole howler in civil planning at a station that sees at least 40 pairs of halting and galloping trains — carrying either passengers or goods — pass by every day.
According to retired IAF officer R.K. Prasad, low-lying platforms are the biggest threat.
“I believe there are a few standard safety guidelines in the railway rule book when it comes to raising platforms. Unfortunately, none is followed here. You can’t make out the difference between tracks and platforms, especially after sundown, as both are almost at the same level. There are also no security barricades on either end of the three platforms despite heavy train traffic on this route,” said Prasad.
The McCluskieganj junction under East Central Railway (ECR) connects trains from Dhanbad-Bokaro to Daltonganj-Garhwa, from where the route splits towards Mughalsarai, Delhi and Mumbai. There are 14 pairs of trains that stop at this old station. These include the Hatia-Chopan Express, Palamau Express and Jabalpur-Howrah Express. Among galloping ones are Rajdhani Express and the Garib Rath. Local railway officials pegged the daily off-season passenger footfall at 800-1,000.
A journalist working with a local daily said that they had raised the issues with senior railway officials during inspections more than once. “Nothing has happened so far,” he rued, adding that the ECR authorities cited poor revenue generation and funds crunch for delay in revamp of the junction.
“People live on either side of the station and crossing tracks is common in the absence of a footbridge. Though there is a road for villages from Khelari, but that is an almost 8km detour,” the scribe said, recalling an incident a few months ago when a schoolboy had a close shave.
Sandeep Rajdan, another resident, added: “We recently saw what happened at Dhamaraghat in Bihar last month. Will only a tragedy jolt the railway authorities out of their snooze mode. Let alone a footbridge, McCluskieganj station does not have basic amenities such as drinking water. An elderly or an ailing person could collapse and die of thirst in peak summer.”
Dhanbad divisional railway manager (DRM) Sudhir Kumar did not take calls despite repeated attempts.
Additional DRM H.K. Raghu feigned ignorance. “I have to see files and that it will take some time. File an RTI to get answers,” he said briefly.
Do you think the footbridge will ever come up?