Mumbai, May 29 — The city felt the effects of suspected Maoist violence on Friday when relatives of passengers travelling by Gyaneshwari Express from Howrah to Mumbai, thronged Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), Kurla, for news of their loved ones. At least 52 people died and 136 were injured when 13 coaches of 2102 Gyaneshwari Express got derailed around 1.15 am between Kharagpur-Tatanagar section on Friday.
The West Bengal government has claimed it was an act of sabotage by Naxalites. At least 1,800 km away from the accident site, things at the busy railway station were, ironically, less chaotic than they usually are.
The Central Railway set up assistance booths at Kurla Terminus, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Thane, Nashik, Manmad, Bhusawal and Nagpur railway stations to help families of victims. Each booth (inquiry desk) was had telephones, train charts and lists of the injured along with the list of trains that were rescheduled and diverted.
There were four railway staff members at every desk – a divisional commercial manager (DCM) for supervision and three head ticket collectors for dissemination of information. While several distressed relatives came in to inquire in the morning, the numbers thinned by the afternoon.
“In the morning, relatives were mostly inquiring about the condition of their family members and the status of the trains,” said a railway official who was posted at the desk. As the day progressed, the railways announced helpline numbers and uploaded the names of the passengers and the injured on their website so that people could check the information online.
The names of the injured were displayed with the names of hospitals they were admitted to outside the ticket collector’s office. The railways said the names of the deceased will be uploaded on the website as soon as the chart was ready.
For passengers who had occupied the waiting hall, it was more of a media jamboree with more video cameras and journalists walking up and down the concourse than the number of relatives who came in for inquiry. “What have they been shooting and whose pictures are they taking for so many hours?” a curious passenger asked.
The railway also made alternate arrangements for issuing passes to relatives of the victims who wished to travel to Howrah. “Initially, four families had approached us saying they wanted to go but three others left after making inquiries,” said S.C. Mudgerikar, chief public relations officer.
“We have made reservation for a person called Saif-ul Gazi whose three family members were travelling on the train.” The Central Railway has also arranged for a relief train to ferry victims from Kharagpur to Mumbai.
“Eleven coaches of the train [which had not been damaged], were taken to Kharagpur and three additional coaches were attached to it. This 14-coach relief train, ferrying the victims and other passengers, has left from Kharagpur around 9.15 am and is expected to reach Lokmanya Tilak Terminus by Saturday afternoon,” said Mudgerikar.
Gyaneshwari Express runs between LTT to Howrah four days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Its scheduled departure from LTT is 8.35 pm and it reaches Howrah at 3.35 am after a 32-hour journey.
Helpline numbers Maharashtra NAGPUR 0712-2564342 BHUSAWAL 02582-223009 LOKMANYA TILAK TERMINUS 022-25298499 KALYAN 0251-2311499 CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI TERMINUS 022-22694040 NASHIK ROAD 0253-2460138; 2467863 MANMAD 02591-222345 Jharkhand TATA NAGAR 0657-2290324; 2290074; 2290382 CHAKRADHARPUR 06587-238072 Orissa ROURKELA 0661-2511155 JHARSUGUDA 06445-270977 West Bengal HOWRAH/SER 033-26382217 KHARAGPUR 0322-255751; 255735 HOWRAH New Complex: 033-26411425; 26411416 Old Complex:.