Malda, Dec. 7: Tired after working continuously for three days, a worker manning a railway crossing near Old Malda station locked up the gates and went home last night.
The result was a serious traffic snarl on National Highway 34. A mob was about to go berserk when police found the rail gate keys at a nearby tea stall, official sources said.
Sukumar Das was on guard at the gate at Mongolbari since Wednesday. In three days, no one had turned up to relieve him.
Yadav Singh Saha, supposed to relieve Das on Wednesday night, turned up for duty only this morning.
Exhausted, Das went home yesterday after handing the keys to a tea-stall owner. He apparently didn’t want a repeat of Tuesday’s Khaltipur accident, in which three people died and nine were injured when the Sealdah-bound Teesta-Torsa Express hit a Maruti van at a level-crossing.
The same morning, a vehicle had crashed into the rail gate, putting it out of operation.
Das’ disappearance held up hundreds of vehicles, including long-distance buses and trucks. Policemen, armed with batons, struggled to manage the traffic and angry vehicle owners.
Dilip Kumar Agarwal, additional divisional railway manager, Northeast Frontier Railway (Katiyar division), said an inquiry has been started. According to preliminary investigations, Das fell ill before he left.
“It’s being probed why nobody was sent to relieve him even after 72 hours,” Agarwal said. “We are also looking into the roles of the station master and the supervisor of the nearest railway station.”
“Seventy-two hours’ duty at a stretch is too much and tells upon one’s nerves. But I also believe he should not have left the place that way. We are going to serve a showcause notice on Singh Saha on charges of duty dereliction and being absent without notice,” Agarwal added.
Rajdhani snag detected
Early detection of an engine snag in the Sealdah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express last night prevented an accident near Durgapur.
The driver detected a fault in the engine’s brake system after the 2313 UP Rajdhani Express left Durgapur station at 7 pm, railway sources said. He immediately stopped the train, delaying traffic by three hours.
The station master of Waria contacted the train guard and guided the train back to the station. Senior divisional railway engineer M.P. Singh, who rushed to Waria from Asansol, said the “fault was of a serious nature and could not be fixed immediately”.