The Forgotten Stationmaster Who Saved Countless Lives During the Bhopal Gas Tragedy

indian railways, Irctc, Irctc App, IRCTC PNR, indian railways inquiry, Indian Railway, Bhopal Railways station, Bhopal
On the evening of Dec 2nd, 1984 Ghulam Dastagir was settling down in his office to compare some pending paperwork. This work kept him in office till 2 am in the night when the Gorakhpur-Mumbai Express arrived at the platform. As he stepped out on the platform he felt his eyes were burning and a queer itching sensation in his throat. He was unaware of the fact that poisonous fumes leaked from the Union Carbide’s pesticide factory which was stealthily enveloping the Bhopal Railway Station.

Dastagir’s suddenly worsening health and years of experience told him that something was wrong. Though he did not comprehend fully what was happening, he decided to act immediately and alerted the senior staff at nearby stations, like Vidisha and Itarsi, to suspend all train traffic to Bhopal. Listening to his gut instinct, Dastagir told his staff to immediately clear the Gorakhpur-Mumbai Express for departure, in a condition when he himself could barely stand and breathe. He wanted to ensure that the train left without any delay.

Indian Railways, the world’s largest rail network does not have any means to help in emergencies such as any cardiac issues or as in Bhopal’s gas tragedy. Indian Railways Enquiry should be designed such that it can assist any passenger in the event of an emergency situation. This incident has forced us to think that Indian Railways must bring about drastic reforms to make our train journeys memorable and safe. There is no easy mechanism to find the TTE; there are no emergency contact numbers on the platforms or inside the Indian Railways trains. Besides Indian Railways should have an Emergency Response kit in trains – must be kept under the care of the TTE. In this era, the IRCTC Rail Info App is available on every mobile which can be used to reach any emergency contact number in the event of causality during a train journey. 

That night, the station master’s quick decision saved the lives of hundreds of people who would have died had they been exposed to the toxic gas for much longer. Surrounded by hordes of suffering people, the station soon resembled the emergency room of a hospital. Dastagir stayed at the station doing his duty knowing that his family was out there in the ill-fated city. The Indian Railways only wishes you a safe journey, in addition, should have a mechanism to make it safe.

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