The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cover-up charge on rail

Malda, Oct. 25: Less than 24 hours after the Teesta-Torsa and the Guwahati-Trivandrum Express escaped a head-on crash by metres at Bhaluka Road station in Malda, witnesses and railway authorities spoke differently about the exact nature of the near-mishap.

Though every witness to the incident — passengers and station-dwellers — said both the trains stopped a few metres short of each other, officials denied they were on a single track.

Additional divisional railway manager of Katihar D.K. Agarwal, however, admitted that three compartments of one of the trains had gone past the signal. “But it was nothing more than that,” he insisted, minutes after disclosing that four railway employees had initially been suspended after a probe at the station.

Minister of state for railways Bandaru Dattatreya, who is on a trip to Sikkim, said in Gangtok that two railway employees have been suspended. “We have ordered a probe into the incident,” he added.

But the witnesses said the North-eastern Frontier Railway officials were trying to hush up the near-mishap to cover up their own failures.

Abdul Wadud, who teaches Bengali at the Tulsihatta High School, was on the Teesta-Torsa. “The train — slowing down as it was entering the platform (No. 1) — suddenly shuddered to a halt with a loud noise,” he said.

“I rushed to the door and saw sparks flying from the wheels of another train approaching us,” he said. “Several passengers from that train, too, jumped down on the platform like me.”

Another Teesta-Torsa passenger, Parameshwar Jha, corroborated Wadud’s version as did station teastall-owner Deepak Karmakar and station cycle-repairman Santosh Kumar Das.

“Thank God, Bhaluka Road did not become Gaisal,” was the common refrain.

Agarwal said the on-the-spot probe that started “soon after the incident” and ended at 6 in the morning found four railway employees guilty of negligence.

Though the report later absolved the Bhaluka Road assistant stationmaster, three others — the electric signal-maintainer, the signal inspector and the cabin man — at the station would stay suspended.

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