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Train rooftop accident leaves 18 dead; blame game on
Published on 2 Feb. 2011 10:42 PM IST
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Four more youths succumbed to their injuries, taking the death toll in the train rooftop accident in Uttar Pradesh to 18 Wednesday. Even as some survivors blamed police, the authorities continued to pass the buck over why hundreds of youths had to sit atop a train, which led to the victims being crushed by an overbridge.
The accident occurred at Shahjahanpur Tuesday and the victims were youths who had assembled in nearby Bareilly for a recruitment drive of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
The authorities at CSMMU, the medical college and hospital in Lucknow where some of the 18 injured were brought, Wednesday said four more had died.
Fourteen had died Tuesday afternoon, when they were sitting atop a train and crashed head on into an overbridge at Shahjahanpur. The superfast Jammu-Howrah Himgiri Express was passing under the bridge with hundreds of the youths perched on its rooftop. Shahjahanpur is barely 60 km from Bareilly.
“Apparently, while some of the rooftop riders managed to save themselves by lying down flat, some jumped down in panic, others just went crashing into the bridge,” said Shahjahanpur district magistrate Ajay Chauhan.
Much confusion had preceded the accident when the ITBP chose to cancel the recruitment, following which an estimated 100,000 aspirants, who had converged at Bareilly from 11 different states for barely 416 jobs that were thrown open, went on the rampage.
But what followed was worse.
“Police and other security personnel charged at us, directing us to leave Bareilly by any means. It was only because of the fear of police and security personnel that hundreds of students climbed on to Himgiri Express in Bareilly,” Pramod Kumar, a resident of Bihar who had come for the recruitment drive, told IANS. While some climbed the roof of the train, others clambered on to the top of goods trains, survivors said.
The Uttar Pradesh government was quick to blame it all on the ITBP. “We were never informed about the magnitude of the recruitment rally, otherwise we would have made necessary arrangements,” Bareilly District Magistrate Anil Garg told reporters there.
Contradicting the state government’s claim, union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “Despite ITBP’s clear cut intimation, Uttar Pradesh government failed to make suitable arrangements.”
The railway authorities conveniently washed their hands off the whole affair saying they were kept out of the loop and no one cared to inform them that such a massive recruitment rally was taking place in Bareilly.
“The railway staff were taken by surprise when they found the station swarmed by thousands of young men, who looked very agitated,” a senior railway official told IANS on condition of anonymity from Bareilly.
“We promptly got the railway police into action, but the station was jampacked with these young men who went about damaging railway property while raising anti-ITBP slogans,” he said.
“No sooner did the Himgiri Express roll into the station than a large group climbed over it, clutching on to all sides of the train, including the rooftop and the engine. There was no way the youth could have been prevented from crowding the train and no one realised that barely 60 km ahead they would fatally encounter a low overbridge,” the official added.
Police forced us to sit on train roof, allege survivors
Many youths who travelled on board the Himgiri Express that turned fatal for 18 youths in Uttar Pradesh say they were either forced to sit on the roof of the train by police or did so out of fear of security personnel.
The victims were crushed to death by an overbridge at Shajahanpur, 60 km from Bareilly, as they sat on the top of Himgiri Express. And many even say they were forced to clamber on to the roofs of goods trains.
“Police and other security personnel charged at us, directing us to leave Bareilly by any means. It was only because of the fear of police and security personnel that hundreds of students climbed on to Himgiri Express in Bareilly,” Pramod Kumar, a resident of Bihar, told IANS.
On Wednesday he was waiting at the Charbagh railway station here to catch a train back home.
He was among around 100,000 aspirants from 11 states who had converged for a recruitment drive of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in Bareilly.
According to them, after they protested mismanagement of the drive, police and security personnel directed them to leave Bareilly at the earliest and drove them towards railway and bus stations.
“The men in khaki bundled us into train coaches…When some of us politely told them that the train was already packed with passengers and that there was not a single seat left, the security men directed us to climb on to the roof of the train,” alleged Kumar.
Shajahanpur is 180 km from Lucknow. Significantly, it was not just the Himgiri Express. Candidates claimed they were even forced to climb atop wagons of goods trains.
“The security men were just not willing to listen us…We pleaded with them, but many of the ITBP aspirants had to climb on the Himgiri Express roof while others preferred sitting on top of goods trains passing the area,” Raju Kumar, who had come from Bhadohi for the recruitment drive, told IANS. Kumar and his two cousins who accompanied him for the drive were among those who sat atop a goods train in their bid to leave Bareilly.
Pankaj Yadav, another ITBP aspirant and a native of Sultanpur, told IANS: “You tell me, what’s our fault? People can say the aspirants invited the accident. But tell me what would you have done if you faced a similar situation…We climbed on the train to avoid the wrath of security personnel.”
Govind Kumar, another youth who hailed from Bihar, said: “I managed to enter one of the coaches of Himgiri Express. When the train started moving towards Lucknow from Shajahanpur, I noticed several students coming down from the train one by one.”
“At that time I thought the students were jumping from the roof. Then suddenly I felt blood dropping on my clothes…That’s when I realised that an accident has occurred.”
Candidates also alleged that rescue operations at the accident site started very late, prompting angry youths to burn a coach.
“There was no one from the government to help us…We carried out rescue operations by bringing down youths from the roof ourself. Police and government railway police arrived more than one hour after the accident took place,” said Ramakant Devrat, an ITBP aspirant from Azamgarh.
A top police official said he would look into the allegations.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Prakash D. told IANS, “The foremost thing is that travelling on the train roof is not legal.
But this aspect had not been brought to my knowledge until now. You ask the names of the policemen whom the students accuse of forcing them to climb atop the train and I will take necessary action.”

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