| Relieved passengers of the Teesta-Torsa Express at Sealdah station. Picture by Amit Dutta
Calcutta, Sept. 20: It couldn’t be happening to me, my worst fears couldn’t be coming true, thought a petrified Haripada Sen, fists clenched and eyes tightly shut as the Teesta-Torsa shuddered and jerked massively before grounding to a ear-splitting halt.
Chanting mantras by the million as he vainly courted sleep, Haripada — on his way to Calcutta from Dinhata — had been reliving the Rajdhani nightmare of 10 nights ago when his train careened off the tracks.
Was Rafiganj happening again'
“When I felt a jerk, I was sure my condition was going to be like the Rajdhani passengers. Frankly speaking, I was travelling with both fear and panic. When night came, I was just thinking of the Rajdhani Express passengers. I did not sleep and spent the night chanting mantras.
“Ultimately, it happened as I thought. We were saved as the train was going very slow. Had it been at full speed, many others and I would have been in the morgue,’’ he said, still stunned that he was alive.
Equally unbelieving were many of Haripada’s co-travellers in one of the sleeper coaches that derailed near Azimganj close to midnight yesterday.
But even as they heaved sighs of relief at having escaped by the skin of their teeth, they grew angrier and angrier at the alleged callousness and gross mismanagement of the railway.
“At this rate, it seems we have to don helmets and wear seatbelts while travelling in any train,” fumed Alok Das, who was returning to his Jadavpur home from Alipurduar.
“See the efficiency of the railway officials, the incident took place around 11.15 pm and the relief train arrived around 5 am. Though there is no casualty, can you imagine what would have happened if it was a major accident'” he ranted.
P. Dutta, who was travelling with wife Mamata, alleged that the rail officials had turned a deaf ear to the passengers’ cries.
After jumping on to the tracks and walking to Mahipal Road station, the passengers had to spend the whole night loitering on the platform, he said.
“I urged an official in the control room to do something for us but we were told to wait. When a relief train arrived, it was close to dawn. We spent the entire night on the railway tracks and platform, but nobody came to see us,’’ he said.
Dutta attributed his good fortune squarely to God. “I had just come out of the toilet when I felt a massive jerk and the train stopped suddenly. I fell and panicked, fearing an accident. It took me about 10 minutes to realise that God had saved us and that my wife and I were alive,’’ he said.
But not everyone was half as lucky. Ajit Ghatak waited expectantly for his wife to show up in the relief train that pulled in at Sealdah this morning, but Aruna was missing.
So was Indranil Banerjee, the son-in-law of D.K. Bhattacharjee. The two men camped at Sealdah station, returning home only after rail officials convinced them that their relatives would come by the next train as there were no casualties.
The railway has refused to take allegations of delay in relief lying down. Divisional railway manager, Sealdah, D.C. Mitra said: “We got information of the derailment at about 11.20 and immediately sent a message to bring the relief train as soon as possible. The relief train left Malda at 11.45 pm and reached the spot at about 4 am,’’ he said.