25 Crores for a Terrorist : Why not 35 lakhs for Indians ??
Special Trains from Bangalore to Guwahati via Kolkata for Northeast Citizens of India
On 17th August 2012 we came to know that 3 Special Trains from Banglore have left for Guwahati & were expected to reach Howrah Station while on route to Guwahati.
We, a group of about 25-30 Common Citizens of Kolkata decided to provide relief in terms of food articles to the heavily crowded passengers in the trains. On the after noon of the 17th August we submitted a request letter in the name of a N.G.O. with the railway authorities to grant us permission to provide the relief services at Howrah Station. Since every thing happened all of a sudden & time was very short, obviously the authorities may not have been in a position to grant permission in writing immediately. However after discussing the matter with several senior officers we were somehow told on the 18th August morning that although the authorities are not in a position to grant written permission to provide the relief, on humanitarian ground they have no objection, if we do the relief work. We highly appreciate & salute these authorities. Immediately we sprung into action & bought fruits, breads & biscuits from the market. M/s Tewari Brothers was kind enough to sponsor some food packets. Although we missed the 1st train but, we were happy to have sufficient arrangement for the 2nd train. We were also immediately provided full support by LIONS CLUB OF HOWRAH in arranging One Doctor, 2 Nurses, enough Medicine & an Ambulance for any required Medical assistance in the trains.
As soon as the 2nd train arrived, we started distributing the food items. The condition of the passengers was miserable and wherein one bogie is supposed to carry hardly 72-80 passengers. We saw more than 350 to 400 people lying on each other in each bogie. The bathroom accommodated at least 3-4 passengers sitting inside. While distributing food, the passengers were crying for drinking water. We realized the need for drinking water in those suffocating bogies & immediately managed to buy maximum possible bottles of mineral water from the vendors on the platform & when the train left most of our volunteers had tears in their eyes with the passengers of the train shouting - BHARAT MATA KI JAY.
The next train was scheduled at 5 p.m. we tried to get hot food from Janata Meal at Howrah Station & wanted to order the same from the IRCTC outlet at Howrah Station itself. The IRCTC declined to provide any food packet on the plea that they provide food only to Rajdhani & Duranto. We were surprised & immediately ordered the food packets under partial sponsorship from Bika Food Palace .We were also able to manage 2500 bottles of mineral water for the 3rd train around 6 p.m. The 3rd train arrived & the situation was as pathetic as the 2nd train. But what made us happy was that about 8 to 10 junior staff of the railway joined us in the relief services.
We were inform that there is another train at 6 a.m. in the morning to serve. We arranged the food packets at 5 a.m. in the morning along with fruits, breads, biscuits & mineral water for this train. We were again happy that the junior railway staff again joined us for the relief work. In the mean time a journalist came to us & informed that the students on the platform since the previous day are hungry & requested if we can help them with some food. We were lucky to get 180 Janata Meal packet & bought them & distributed them to the students. But today the railway authorities behaved in a different manner & scolded us for giving food & water to a few passengers who came down the train as they were very hungry & thirsty. They said that we should not have let them come out of the train. We replied that if those people are drastically hungry & thirsty, how could we stop them. These authorities told us to meet the senior authorities before doing any further relief work. We told them that if railway has any objection, we will immediately suspend our services & hand over all our stocks for the next 2 trains (expected to arrive at 1 p.m. & 3 p.m.) to the railway authorities & it would be kind of them if they could distribute the food & water in the next 2 trains. After about 30 minutes these people came to us & said that the railway has no objection if we continue our services. We kept on waiting & enquiring for the next 2 trains but were informed around 2:15 p.m. after enough persuasion that 1 train has been re-routed from as closed as Dankuni & the other has been re-routed from Asansol to go directly to Guwahati & are not coming to Howrah. We suspect a foul play in re-routing these trains after coming so close to Howrah & the authorities not providing any information to us for more than 3 hours in spite of knowing well that we were ready with the enough stocks for next 2 trains. The passengers of these two trains could not get any food of water wherein they have already traveled for more than 40 hours and had another 24 hours journey to go. We were remembering the situation of trains at the time of India-Pakistan division and thinking of the condition of the passengers in those trains.
We had no other option than to distribute some of these stocks of the re-routed trains in the special train arranged from Howrah to Guwahati at 3 p.m. & leave the Howrah Station with remaining stocks. It would have made us really happy if we could have served the last 2 trains also. We were disappointed and for the future except that the railway authorities will be more active & prudent & at least a place like Kolkata which gives the Railway Minister to the country should bother a little more about people passing through Howrah in such unpleasant situations which would make the people of West Bengal more happy & proud.
What the Govt of India was expected to do when the situation was turning bad :
1. The local Karnataka ministers along with the Home Minister should have instantly reached the Bangalore station to talk to the people gathering at the station.
2. The govt should have brought in the local MP's and MLA's of Assam by air to Bangalore and made them talk to the people in their local language and assure them that they are very safe in Bangalore and these MP's and MLA's would stay with them for next two to three days.
3. The govt should have relocated these people to safe place to stay at Dharamshala's, Schools & Colleges, any closed indoor stadiums or any other temporary arrangements having adequate lavatories. Food could have been arranged at those locations with cooks being brought in and food been cooked there itself. The help of NGO's could have been taken. The MP's and MLA's who claim to be with the people in bad times could stay with them along with their bodyguards for 2-3 days.
4. The area should have been surrounded by enough military and police personnel to make sure that safety is not compromised and these people feel that they are safe.
5. Helplines could have been given where the relatives could get information and contact their loved ones.
6. Still, if some people want to go back, they could have been requested to take trains in 2-3 days as and when the government is able to arrange for extra trains.
7. The govt should have arranged for enough trains to transfer the desiring people and should have allowed limited number of passengers in those trains so that atleast the bogies are not suffocating.
8. The govt or the railways should have provided free food and drinking water to the passengers.
OUR EXPERIENCE AT HOWRAH STATION
1. One person reportedly died in the first train which reached Howrah Station due to thirst and suffocation (as reported by the authorities verbally). His coffin was somehow forced into a passenger bogies on the heavily crowded gate. Why was it not put in a parcel van?
2. We could feel the heat and smell as soon as the trains were entering howrah station. The passengers were suffocating.
3. Water was the most essential requirement. One can survive without food for two to three days but cannot survive without water for 24 hours in the hot and suffocating bogies. Still, if the Indian Government can spend more than 25 crores on a Terrorist (Kasab), they should have been honest to afford atleast 35 lakhs for their own citizens. There were 35000 passengers and if the govt would have given a Janata Meal and one litre water every 12 hours in a journey of 60 hours, the govt would have spent 20 rupees 5 times for each passenger which comes to 35 lakhs.
4. Why does Railways have objection if the common citizens want to offer food and water to their brothers and sisters in such situations whereas the Railways did not chuck out a penny for their welfare. Most passengers even claim that they have paid the railways for their travel. The railways should not have even asked for the fare on humanitarian grounds in such situations.
5. No ministers including the railway minister had a time to even peep in to see what is the condition of the people.
6. Do we still think we stay in Independent and Democratic INDIA ??