A man and a woman jumped to their death in front of the same Metro train seven stations apart on Monday afternoon, leaving a driver so traumatised that he had to go off duty before the rake reached its destination two hours late.
The twin suicides by a 48-year-old railway employee and a 50-year-old woman — the first at Kalighat and the other at Kavi Nazrul (Garia Bazar) station — are said to be the first instance in the transport lifeline’s 30-year history of two persons jumping in front of a rake during a single journey.
The air-conditioned train had set off from Dum Dum for Kavi Subhash (New Garia) station at 2.36pm and took two hours and 52 minutes to complete a ride that usually lasts 46 minutes. In between, two mangled bodies had to be pulled out from under the train and the driver replaced midway because he was in no condition to complete the journey after the first suicide.
“A suicide is always a traumatic moment for any driver. The first reaction after such an incident is always of shock and helplessness. It takes at least two to three days to get over the shock and be confident enough to again enter the cabin,” said a motorman who has had his share of such incidents.
The first suicide occurred at 3.02pm, just when the south-bound train was pulling into Kalighat station. The body of Sudip Kumar Ghoshal, an employee of Southeastern Railway who lived in Bhowanipore, was brought out from under the train after 39 minutes.
Sandhya Chandra, a resident of Rajpur in Sonarpur, took the fatal jump 15 minutes later when the train was just two stations short of its destination. A CCTV camera at Kavi Nazrul station captured the woman in a sari and carrying a bag hurling herself towards the train.
“The driver who had replaced the original one was extra alert this time and applied the emergency brakes but the woman was still run over,” a spokesperson for Metro Railway said.
The CCTV footage showed two other passengers on the platform when the incident occurred at 3.56pm. By the time, Chandra’s body was removed from the track, it was past 5pm. The train resumed its journey at 5.19pm and reached its destination at 5.24pm.
The rake in question is the ninth air-conditioned train in Metro Railway’s fleet of 13 such rakes.
The two motormen who steered the train were given the rest of the afternoon off along with a couple of days’ leave from work.
According to a colleague of theirs, a suicide affects the driver’s confidence to such an extent that the sight of a packed platform is bound to make him nervous and sometimes prompt him to apply the brakes ahead of time.
“For a few days after seeing a suicide, my hands would tremble while entering the platform. Thankfully, I was soon shifted to the control room, where I no longer had to drive a train,” the former motorman said.
A motorman who witnesses a suicide is immediately sent for a health check-up and advised leave for two or three days. He also undergoes counselling. “A driver once told us that he used to have nightmares about a man who had come under his train,” said a doctor at the Tapan Sinha Memorial Hospital in Tollygunge, where drivers usually bundergo counselling.
The first suicide on Monday stalled train services for 40 minutes. Truncated train services were underway between New Garia and Tollygunge and Noapara and Girish Park. During the second disruption, there was truncated service between Tollygunge and Noapara but no train movement between Kavi Subhash and Tollygunge stations for over 80 minutes.
Officials said the second death caused a longer delay because the body was mutilated.
The twin disruptions left many passengers stranded and fuming.
“I waited at Bansdroni station for 45 minutes since 3.30pm for a train to Chandni Chowk and then took a taxi till Tollygunge,” said commuter Sonia Sengupta.
The ripple effect of the disruptions continued well past 7.30pm with trains blowing horns to clear out passengers almost leaning from the edge of packed platforms.