BENGAL RAIL DISASTER INVESTIGATION: Diversion system not activated – Duo on duty ‘booked off’

BENGAL RAIL DISASTER INVESTIGATION: Diversion system not activated – Duo on duty ‘booked off’ – two possibilities, no deeper conspiracy yet to be unearthed ?!!

RP Yadav, the commissioner of railway safety in the eastern zone, at Sainthia station on Wednesday – weight of responsibility and just expectations ?!! (Photo by Soumi Bhattacharya)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SANJAY MANDAL

WITH INPUTS FROM SOUMI BHATTACHARYA IN SAINTHIA

Calcutta, July 21: The interlocking system that could have diverted the speeding Uttar Banga Express to an empty platform and prevented it from ramming into the Vananchal Express at Sainthia station on Monday had not been activated, preliminary probe by the railways has revealed.

The Telegraph had reported on Monday that the interlocking system at the station may not have been put in place or it did not work as the Uttar Banga Express rushed in.

The railways have “booked off”, or temporarily taken off duty, the cabin operator and the assistant station manager of Sainthia station who were on duty at the time of the tragedy and were supposed to apply the diversion system after the Vananchal Express stopped at platform number four.

“Two staff members at Sainthia railway station have been booked off,” said Parthasarathi Mondal, the manager of Eastern Railway’s Howrah division.

Railway sources said the interlocking system should have been activated after the Vananchal Express chugged into platform number four so that any train travelling on the same line could be diverted and a collision avoided even if it had violated the red signal.

“Had the system been activated, the Uttar Banga Express would have automatically got diverted to an empty platform. Even if the driver and assistant driver had been drugged, the collision could have been avoided,” a senior railway official said.

Railway officials said investigations had revealed that the possible drugging of the drivers and the error of not activating the diversion at the signal point were responsible for the tragedy.

Sources said there were complaints of snags in the interlocking system ever since it was installed in 2008. Even though it was being repaired, it was in operation.

The possibility of the two drivers of Uttar Banga Express, Madhab Chandra Dey and Nirmal Kumar Mandal, being drugged has triggered alarm in the railways.

Yesterday, the Railway Board had directed all zonal chiefs to ask drivers and guards not to have tea, coffee or other beverages at stations from vendors. “Today, the directive was circulated to all divisions. Drivers and guards have been asked to strictly follow it,” a railway official said.

The railways today began its official probe into the July 19 train tragedy.

R.P Yadav, the commissioner of railway safety in the eastern zone, questioned the two drivers of the Vananchal Express and the guard of the Uttar Banga Express.

Somnath Sengupta, the guard of the Uttar Banga Express, told reporters after the questioning: “The home signal (signal located 500 metres before the platform) was red. I tried to contact the driver repeatedly over my walkie-talkie but did not get any response. Then I applied the emergency brakes,” Sengupta said.

Mohammad Nayeem, the driver of the Vananchal Express, said that “even though the green signal was given at 1.54am, we could start the train only at 2.01am because we had not received any signal from the guard”.

Yadav refused comment saying the investigation was on.

MEANWHILE

Body blow – by rash cash for crash ?!!

Vanachal Express accident - an elderly woman searches for her son - while others moved by over-zealousness ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH

Burdwan, July 21: Fourteen of the 20 unidentified bodies from the train tragedy were claimed by their relatives today but six could not be given away because the claimants could not produce identity proofs.

The bodies had been lying at the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital morgue. Claimants are required to furnish their photo-identity proofs along with those of the dead.

A certificate from the local panchayat, giving address details of the deceased and the claimant and their relationship, is also needed.

But six claimants could not furnish these documents as they were from Bihar and Jharkhand.

Uttam Mishra, a resident of Bhagalpur who has lost his wife, eldest son, uncle and brother-in-law, said the procedure of handover of bodies was not so “complicated” at Suri Sadar Hospital, where too some of the bodies had been taken.

Mishra said he had collected the bodies of his wife, uncle and brother-in-law from the Suri hospital but could not take eldest son Ramu’s body from the Burdwan hospital because he could not furnish his son’s identity proof.

“Ramu was only seven years old. He obviously did not have a voter’s identity card or PAN card. Now how will I get his body?” Mishra asked.

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