Chhath Festival: Security beefed up at all major Railway stations

PATNA: Thousands of passengers boarded Bihar-bound trains to reach home in time for Chhath Puja. The Chhath Puja festivities began on October 24 and will continue till October 27. It is a festival for the people of Bihar, Jharkand and some parts of Uttar Pradesh. The festival sees thousands of people come home to Bihar to offer prayers to Lord Sun and Chhathi Maiyya. Obviously, being the three most populous states of the country, the crowd is mammoth.

Hundreds of additional Railway security men and senior railway officials have been deployed at key stations under Danapur, Sonepur and Samastipur divisions of the East Central Railway (ECR) for Chhath, apart from various other Divisions like Delhi, Lucknow etc.

According to ECR Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) Rajesh Kumar, RPF Chief Security Sommissioner Ravindra Verma held a high-level meeting at Hajipur on Monday and directed divisional security commissioners of the three divisions to ensure foolproof safety plan. All RPF posts would remain vigilant to check any stampede-like situation on the crowded stations.

The railways has created a ‘holding area’ on each major platform, including at Patna Junction, to restrict sudden rush of passengers in large numbers. The ‘holding area’ is provided with public address system and the first aid facilities, the CPRO said.

He said there would be no last-moment change in platform to avoid a stampede-like situation on the foot overbridges (FOBs). Scouts and guides have been deployed at all major stations to assist passengers, particularly elderly and women. ‘May I Help You’ booths would function 24X7 at all major stations, he said.

The railways has also installed additional CCTV cameras at vantage points to surveillance on passengers rush on gates during the Chhath festival. Besides, commercial employees of these three divisions have been deployed at the crowded FOBs to guide passengers while entering or making an exit during peak hours, Kumar said.

ECR chief commercial manager Bishnu Kumar, chief operating manager Salil Kumar Jha and other senior railway officials also attended the safety review meeting.

Muzaffarpur-Howrah spl trains: The railways is running two pairs of weekly special passenger trains between Muzaffarpur and Howrah from October 21 to November 25 next month to cope with huge passenger rush during Chhath festival. These trains will run via Munger- Bhagalpur-Sahebganj-Rampurhat.

According to sources, while the special train (05227-05228) will leave Muzaffarpur every Saturday on October 28, November 4, 11, 18 and 25 at 1.45pm to reach Howrah at 4.30am next day. On its return journey, it leaves Howrah every Sunday at 6am and reaches Muzaffarpur at 8.45pm. The train has 23 coaches, including two 2AC, four 3AC, 11 sleeper, four general and two brake vans.

Railways launches cleanliness drive: The Danapur division of the East Central Railway (ECR) has launched an intensive drive to clean railway platforms during Chhath Puja.

“Under the drive launched before Chhath Puja on Saturday, the railways has introduced a mechanized cleaning system at major stations like the Patna Junction, Rajendra Nagar Terminal and Pataliputra Junction. The contract for cleaning work has been outsourced and is being directly monitored by a team of railway officials. We have also asked passengers to help us keep the stations and tracks clean,” Danapur DRM Ranjan Prakash Thakur said on Monday and added waiting rooms, lavatories and washable aprons were also being cleaned.

The railways has also awarded a contract to an agency to remove and collect garbage from 32 stations of the ECR, including the Patna Junction.

Keeping in the mind the heavy rush at the railway stations in Delhi, the Indian Railways announced running of 31 special trains for the festival season. The Railway Police Force was tasked with the duty of maintaining order at the stations. The Railways also pitched in doctors to provide immediate medical attention in case of emergencies.

To control the crowd, the railways have positioned ticket checkers and other officials at the foot-over bridges – the most vulnerable areas during crowd movement. Temporary toilets and drinking water taps have been installed and tents have been pitched to accommodate the passengers.

However, the Indian public doesn’t seem to have learnt from the Elphinstone Bridge collapse incident at Mumbai. Despite the authorities trying their best to tackle the crowd, people were seen hanging from the train windows, boarding moving trains, and pushing each other at the foot-over bridges.