THE KARGIL FUND Set up by The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika
More than a hundred soldiers have already died in the undeclared war in Kargil. Many more are lying injured in hospitals. No assistance is compensation enough for the mother who has lost her son or the wife her husband. But we, the citizens of this country, need to help, in however small a way. The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika are setting up a fund with that modest aim in mind. The fund is being started with an intial contribution of Rs 5 Lakh from the ABP Group. If every reader of The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika donates a small sum, we can raise a huge amount for the families of the soldiers killed or injured in action. As a token of appreciation, both papers will publish the names of donors contributing Rs 500 or more. This is a time to ask yourself what can you do for the nation.   Only account payee cheques and drafts - payable to 'ABP Kargil Fund' - will be accepted. Put the cheque/draft in an envelope with your name and address. Write 'ABP Kargil Fund' and mail it to or deliver (between 10 am and 6 pm except on Sundays) at  
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street 
Calcutta 700001 
Crash of death in hour of sleep
One by one, out they came, twisted and bloody
Blast buzz outdins error factor
Election Commission tangles with government on telecom
He remains in books, not ashes
Calcutta weather

Gaisal (North Dinajpur), Aug. 2 
Death struck at express speed, killing at least 215 people when two trains collided early this morning near this small station in north Bengal. More than 440 persons were injured.

The accident occurred after the Brahmaputra Mail to Delhi and the Guwahati-bound Avadh-Assam Express sped towards each other on the same track at 90 km per hour.

Under the impact of the collision, 13 coaches became heaps of twisted metal. Some of them have piled up as much as 60 feet from the ground. The toll is certain to soar because scores are still trapped in the coaches.

Both trains were running late at the time of the accident. They rammed into each other around 1.55 am on Monday about eight km from New Jalpaiguri, while most of the passengers were asleep.

Of the 215 dead, only twenty-six have been identified. They include four drivers of the two trains, one guard and an air force staffer. Victims of the Brahmaputra Mail are mostly from the army, the BSF and the CRPF. Rescue operations, which were slow to start, will continue through the night.

The authorities believe that the accident was the result of signal failure but there is a suspicion of sabotage. The superintendent of Railway Police, New Jalpaiguri, said preliminary reports indicated there was an explosion. But the position of the engine and compartments suggest the trains collided head-on, he added.

The 4055 Dn Brahmaputra Mail left New Bongaigaon station in Assam at 5 in the evening on Sunday. The 5610 Up Avadh Express left from Delhi at 9.30 in the morning on Saturday.

A Northern Frontier Railway official said: ?On the basis of reports available so far, the Brahmaputra Mail was on its correct track. It was due to go past the Avadh-Assam Express in a few minutes, which was to have been on an adjacent track.??

NFR officials added that the Avadh Express had apparently entered the Mail?s track because of a human error and crashed into it. ?This could have been the fatal mistake, but we cannot rule out the possibility of the Avadh Ex press being jolted out of its track by an external factor,?? said an NFR official. The accident, they emphasised, is one of the rarest instances of a head-on collision on a double track section.

Six bogies of the Brahmaputra Mail piled up on the Express. Two of the coaches are suspended in mid-air.

The station master and two cabin men, who were on night duty from 10 pm last night to 6 am today at Gaisal station, fled soon after the accident. ?I have to admit that it is the fault of the railways. I am thinking of punishing myself,?? said railway minister Nitish Kumar, who was jeered and jostled by residents of the area when he reached the spot.

?Most of my co-passengers were sleeping. I was playing cards with friends when we were suddenly flung to the floor. I lost consciousness. I don?t know how I survived. I can?t find my friends,?? said Sunil Dutt, a CRPF jawan who was on the Mail.

Om Prakash Bhagat of Cooch Behar was travelling on the Mail with his wife and two children. He escaped with minor injuries, but his family is missing. Hysterical, he walked up and down the tracks and peered at the bogies searching for signs of life.

The BSF was the first to reach the site, 10 km from Islampur in the Katihar railway division. They started rescue work around 3 am. The jawans were joined by railway men, but the team made tardy progress because it did not have enough gas cutters to rip through three coaches.

The BSF DIG at Panjipara, I.M. Punata, and BSF officiating commander Ghum Singh Rathode said their men working with torches extricated about 100 bodies by morning. The bodies were lined on the platform of Gaisal station. ?When we were using the gas cutters, we knew that few bodies would be intact,?? said a BSF jawan.

The darkness and lack of equipment cramped rescue operations as passengers shrieked for help. The injured were removed to hospitals in adjacent Islampur, Raigunj, Kishangunj and Siliguri.

The bogies which have piled up have not been pulled apart because officials said people are trapped inside.

?We have to be very careful during this operation as more could be crushed to death,?? said an officer of the NFR.

Seven coaches of the Brahmaputra Mail ? sleeper 976704, GS 104886, GS 98504, GS 98487, sleeper 96292, sleeper 17084 and sleeper 962540 ? were badly damaged.

The worst-affected bogies of the Avadh Express are sleeper 8536, sleeper 6323, sleeper 8724, sleeper 7631 besides a first class, an air-conditioned compartment and a guard van.

The railway minister said Rs 4 lakh will be given as compensation to the next of kin of each of the dead. Each injured person will get Rs 5,000. A statutory inquiry has been ordered.

Two relief trains, one from Assam and the other from Malda, have reached Gaisal to ferry passengers home.

It is not clear how long it will take to restore traffic. Train services were disrupted again in the northeast which remained cut-off for the third day. On July 31, Bodo militants blew up a portion of the broad gauge track between Barpeta and Sarupeta stations in Assam.    

Gaisal (Uttar Dinajpur), Aug. 2: 
They just stared helplessly, knowing that the mangled graves must be suffocating the trapped to death. And there was little the residents could do but wait quietly for the mangled bodies to be brought out. One by one, twisted and bloody, the bodies came, as mangled as the coaches themselves.

Rescue operations started late, around 3 am, but in the remote hamlet, news of the mishap spread far, wide and quickly. As villagers poured in, there was shock, then grief and then anger. Severed limbs and mangled corpses were strewn around.

Villagers said the last cries they heard were around 8 am. Then, as the minutes dragged on, they became muffled. Silence gripped Gaisal for everyone now knew that the Brahmaputra Mail and the Avadh-Assam Express had become graves. A resting place which was worse than hell.

They had got used to the sight of blood and bones. Villagers said the stench of death and decay would fill the night air. Lying close to the Bengal-Bihar border, this station beside which National Highway 34 runs does not even have a proper platform, but today it had become notorious.

Relatives of passengers of the trains, who initially looked shocked and grim, turned hysterical when railway minister Nitish Kumar showed up. They virtually invaded a small tent erected close to the site for his post-inspection visit.

Pushing aside newspersons, they kept on asking him: ?Tell us how long will you take to remove debris and extricate our people inside the compartments.? Even as an embarrassed Kumar moved towards his car, a group of people led by former Bihar minister Taslimuddin kept shouting: ?Nitish Kumar, resign.??

The people?s anger grew in the morning when they found survivors and injured running around aimlessly, shouting the names of their near and dear.

With a bandaged head, Om Prakash, a survivor from the Brahmaputra Mail, cried inconsolably as he moved around looking for his wife and child. A middle-aged woman who lost six of her family was in a state of shock and could not tell where she was coming from and the names of members of her family.

Sepoy Shiv Shyam was busy counting the bodies of army personnel till evening. According to him, four of the 13 coaches hit in the accident were filled with soldiers and para-military personnel.

He said: ?The number of army jawans was high because the trains did not ply in Assam for two days after last week?s blast in Barpeta district.? CRPF constable Satyendra Singh was playing cards with four friends when the accident took place. In the morning, his companions were gone.

BSF personnel from neighbouring Panjipara and Kishanganj rose to the occasion to compensate for the absence of railway rescue teams. Havildar S. Rathode said: ?We reached here with 200 men about an hour after the incident.? The BSF men not only rescued trapped passengers but also tried to extricate bodies with saws.

It rained here today and even the Kanchenjunga was visible. But no one was interested.    

Guwahati, Aug. 2: 
The high-tech ?interlocked? signal system, in use at Gaisal station, prevents trains from being led onto the wrong track even by human error. This is what had led the Northeast Frontier Railway headquarters here to believe initially that an explosion had thrown the Avadh-Assam Express on the rails of the Brahmaputra Mail, which was coming from the opposite direction on the adjacent broad gauge line.

The inter-locked signal system, according to NFR safety experts, is a ?modern electrical circuit which prevents entry of trains into a pre-occupied track,? and thus, ?should have been able to prevent today?s disaster.?

Elaborating on this modern technique, experts pointed out that ?it responds to human error with urgency.? They said: ?In the event of a human error in signalling, the system will ensure that the line is not allowed to be set for train movement and, simultaneously, alert the driver who has been put on the wrong track to go for his brakes at once.?

As soon as the human error occurs, the inter-locking system will ensure that the red light in the signal lightposts next to the track glows and the driver gets an indication to stop till his path is corrected. The experts claimed that the inter-locking system was ?the safest railway signalling system because even in the event of a systems failure, the red light alarm will work.?

Experts said the Avadh-Assam Express, using the ?up? main line, should have continued on the same track or taken a loop through an adjacent broad-gauge track. Instead, it ?entered? broad-gauge down main line no. 5, on which the Brahmaputra Mail was travelling, and rammed into it head-on.

Had there been a human error, resulting in mistakenly signalling the Avadh-Assam Express to get on to broad- gauge down main line no. 5, the red lamp on the signal post directing the movement on this track would have glowed and the train would have stopped ?till the stop signal remained active.?

An NFR official said the railway was trying to ascertain where the inter-locking system failed for such a mishap to occur. ?Till it is conclusively proved that the system had failed, we cannot rule out that the engine and compartments of the Avadh-Assam Express were thrown on to the next track under impact of a blast,? an expert said.

The assistant station master on duty last night was overseeing the signalling. He is absconding. The expert said: ?It points to a human error, after which the guilty has taken to his heels.?

However, a top railway official sought to strengthen the blast theory by saying people within a radius of five km of the accident site had heard sound of an explosion. ?Moreover, two coaches have been totally charred, which lends credence to the explosion theory,? he said.

Reports that the mishap may have been a sequel to a blast gained momentum as a red alert was sounded in all NFR installations yesterday. On Saturday, Bodo militants had blown up a portion the board-gauge track between Barpeta and Sarupeta.    

New Delhi, Aug. 2: 
Openly criticising the government for initiating telecom policy changes after the country moved into ?election mode?, the Election Commission today said it should have restrained itself as such a decision was bound to ?vitiate the level playing field? ahead of the polls.

The government, for its part, regretted that the poll panel made the comments on the eve of the Delhi High Court hearing. The statement issued at the behest of the Prime Minister?s Office said it was ?a matter of deep concern? that when the hearing was due tomorrow, ?a press note has been issued by the Election Commission containing gratuitous advice to the high court to look into certain aspects of the matter during the course of its hearing?.

The war between the poll panel and the government erupted after President K.R. Narayanan expressed reservations on the telecom policy changes. The commission today lashed out at the government for not providing it with the ?full picture?, and said it was refraining from taking a final decision as Delhi High Court is seized of the matter.

What the PMO is objecting to is the poll panel?s statement that it ?hopes that all aspects of the case will be taken into account?. The commission also went a step forward to suggest that not only the matter concerning fiscal aspects, but the ?urgency of the matter be fully gone into in the context of imminent general elections?.

PMO sources wondered why the poll panel was raising a ruckus as the government had announced the policy five days before election dates were announced. They said the President was within his rights to question the policy, and the government had tried its best to answer his queries.

The panel also felt the ?the material provided by the government does not assist the commission adequately?. The PMO replied: ?It is regrettable that the observations by the EC tend to create an impression that the government is not inclined to assist the commission adequately.?

The government wondered why the panel had to issue a press release before approaching it for clarification. The PMO note said: ?The government, on its own, could not have presumed what further material is required by the commission on the subject.?

The PMO?s strong rejoinder suggests that the government is hurt by the commission?s comments. This will definitely be played up by the Opposition. The Left and the Congress have already begun exploiting the issue. While the Congress insisted the government should wait till the polls are over to take a final decision, the Left said this regime, prone to kickbacks, had succumbed to temptation and given a free hand to private cellular operators.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee said all questions posed by the commission would be addressed by the government. He regretted that the issue was being unnecessarily politicised.

The telecom issue has been dogging the Vajpayee government ever since the President voiced his objections.

Even the poll panel is unconvinced if the government?s criteria for unilaterally deciding whether the switchover from licence fee payment system to the revenue-sharing system are justifiable.    

London, Aug. 2: 
About five years ago, Nirad C. Chaudhuri was asked whether he would not prefer to die in his native Bengal. Far from considering it morbid, he leapt at the question with glee.

He did not expect to make a journey longer than ?the short one from my home in Lathbury Road, Oxford, to the Oxford crematorium?, he said.

Nirad Chaudhuri loved Bengal, to be sure, but there was no question of returning to have his illusions shattered. ?Certainly not,? he responded spiritedly. ?I will die here though it doesn?t matter to me where I die. So long as I remain what I am.?

He had left instructions on the disposal of his mortal remains. ?I have given instructions to my sons that there should be no religious ceremony. No one should do anything, they should not bring home the ashes. This is useless. What I was will have gone. Whatever I am will remain in my books,? he had said.

He compared himself to a battery which was discarded after use: a tiny human capsule of cosmic energy thrown away after death. ?Religion says you cross the cosmos. I say I am carried along the cosmos.?

The funeral will be held on Thursday after family members arrive. At the time of death on Sunday, only Padu Mylvaganam, who has been taking care of him for the past two years, was with him.

Prithvi Narayan, the youngest of Nirad Chaudhuri?s three sons, was with him through May and June. He is leaving Calcutta for London tomorrow night and will reach Oxford on Wednesday evening, accompanied by his cousin, Romola Roy.

His eldest son, Dhruba Narayan, who lives in Delhi and heard of his father?s death only this morning, is a heart patient and will not be able to travel.

But Dhruba may not abide by his father?s wish that no rituals are to be followed. Being the eldest, he would like to observe some rites quietly in Delhi.

In the tributes paid today in the British press, Oxford, which he loved so much and where he spent 30 years, came in for some criticism. The Daily Telegraph, describing him as a ?prodigiously talented Indian writer?, said that he ?suffered surprising neglect from Oxford??. It pointed out that though Trinity had celebrated his 100th birthday, Nirad Chaudhuri never had any dining rights at any of the Oxford colleges, a fact that did not worry him unduly.

He would respond with characteristic impishness: ?When you realise that you are going to leave this world via the Oxford crematorium, dining rights are a trifle?.

Peter Strauss, editor of Picador, which recently reissued his first book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, revealed that his company plans to publish one of his two later works. A Passage to England was Picador?s initial choice, but Nirad Chaudhuri had preferred Thy Hand, Great Anarch. With inputs from our Calcutta and Delhi bureaus    

Today?s forecast: A few spells of light rain with one or two spells of shower or thundershowers

Temperature: Maximum 31?C (1?C below normal)
Minimum 26.9?C (1?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 92%
Minimum 70%

Rainfall: 9.6 mm

Sunset: 6.15 pm
Sunrise: 5.11am

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