| The station with the ‘stop’ sign. Picture by Aranya Sen
Kazipara (North 24-Parganas), Oct. 16: Unrecognised by the railways, Bengal’s youngest ‘railway station’ turned one today.
It was business as usual at the Kazipara ‘station’ in Barasat. Passengers took the Kazipara Station Road to the ‘railway station’, scrutinised the time-table written on a wall, those willing bought ‘tickets’ and the ‘signalman’ motioned every passing train to a halt.
A little before dusk, lights came on so that the name of the ‘station’, written in English and Bengali, and the now-redundant notice, “Pratiti train thamibe (Every train will stop)”, were clearly visible. Trains did stop, as they have done for the past year.
The ‘station’ — demolished by the authorities some months after it was ‘inaugurated’ on October 16, 2001 — has sprung back to life, thanks entirely to popular enterprise.
For the railway authorities, it is an example of “misdirected populist politics of the local leadership of every party”. Railway officials say they have given up on the blatant flouting of rules as “something that is wont to happen in as lawless a country as India”.
Admitting that things were beyond control, divisional railway manager (Sealdah) Dulal Chandra Mitra said there was “no logic” behind having another station “only three km from Barasat just to please a few smugglers looking for a safe station away from the police glare of Barasat”.
But local Trinamul Congress MP Ranjit Panja, whose leader Mamata Banerjee was railway minister till early 2001, local MLA and party colleague Ashok Mukherjee, former MLA Saral Deb, who was a Forward Bloc minister, Barasat Municipality chairman Pradeep Chakraborty of the CPM and even Tarit Topdar, the CPM MP from nearby Barrackpore, have pledged their support in writing to the “genuine necessity”.
“Genuine necessity” or “no logic and all lawlessness”, the Kazipara Station Nirman Sangram Committee has made its presence felt. Drawing on a support base that covers a large part of Barasat Municipality and adjoining Subhasnagar, Jagadighata, Daspara, Irabati, Bora, Malancha, Burma Colony, Kalikapur and Gusthia-Badu, the committee is once again stopping trains here, months after the police demolished the waiting room and toilet it had built.
For those willing to part with a one-rupee coin, there is a red coupon with the appeal, “Donate generously to Kazipara Station”, printed in bold black. More than 4,000 coupons are sold every month though, as in every other station, the number of passengers would be many times that figure.
Three signalmen — Syed Bilayat Hossain, Masiur Alam and Md Momin — are paid a monthly salary of Rs 1,000 from the fund. Most of the rest of the money goes towards maintaining the eight tubelights that make Kazipara ‘station’ better lit than most official halts on the route.
“All the eight poles came out of our pockets, as also the toilet and the waiting room the authorities demolished,” committee secretary Mohammad Nazmul Hasan added.
The remainder of the funds has gone towards painting the black-on-yellow signboards announcing the name of the station, the black-on-yellow timetable at the approach to Kazipara Station Road, the red flags that stop trains during the day and the red plasticine-covered searchlights that stop them at night.
Funds permitting, the station might soon see an improved “battery-operated” signal, the organisers say. Kazipara — the only unauthorised station in the division — was waiting to happen, they add. “Market rules say supply follows demand.”