Asish Mishra, a 21-year-old student from Contai in East Midnapore, has often seen the Coromandel Express cross Bhubaneswar, a city where he studies engineering. For him, hundreds of migrant workers and patients travelling by the train to Chennai is a familiar sight.
On Friday, Mishra could not believe his eyes as image after image of mangled coaches of the train and bodies strewn around flashed across the TV screen.
Moved, Mishra made up his mind to stand by those who have suffered the tragedy in whatever capacity possible. On Saturday morning, he came across a Facebook post that the Red Volunteers had set up camps at Midnapore Medical College and Hospital and Kharagpur Railway Hospital and were inviting donors for blood to treat the injured. Several of the injured had been brought to hospitals in Kharagpur and Midnapore.
"I immediately called up one of the numbers and offered to donate blood even if that meant travelling from our Contai home to Kharagpur or Midnapore," Mishra told this newspaper. "But I was told to stay back for the day and donate blood on Sunday," he said.
The Red Volunteers is a group of members of the CPM's student and youth wings — the SFI and the DYFI — set up during the pandemic to help those in distress.
Now, it is reaching out to help train the accident victims.
Mishra, a student of a private engineering college in Bhubaneswar, is one of the many individuals who have contacted Red Volunteers, expressing their desire to help the injured by donating blood.
"Most passengers of this train are either patients going to Chennai for medical treatment or migrant labourers. I can't imagine what their families are going through," he said.
According to Tapas Sinha, a CPM state committee member and one of the leaders overseeing the activities of the Red Volunteers at the two hospitals, said more than 75 people on Saturday donated blood at either Midnapore Medical College and Hospital or Kharagpur Railway Hospital.
They made a list of over 100 people — including Mishra — who sought to donate blood.
"It feels good that even people unrelated to our organisation have volunteered to donate blood," Sinha said.
Sinha said three unreserved compartments of the train had been affected the most. These compartments are generally used by migrant labourers.
"I received numerous calls about missing passengers from Malda, Murshidabad, South 24-Parganas, Hooghly and other districts. All were from families of migrant workers. I could help some, not all," he said.
Sinha said of the 12 migrant workers from Gosaba in the accident-hit train, seven were rescued but the rest were traceless.
The Red Volunteers are helping patients with blood, food and first-aid and trying to get them in touch with their families, Sinha said.