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No means to carry victims

Wednesday, October 10, 2018
By Jagruti Verma

In the absence of ambulance, railway accident victim taken in tempo to hospital

Slow line stations on the Thane-Kalyan section of the Central Line have been grappling with non-availability of ambulances for years now. The Government Railway Police (GRP) officials are often the ones who have to bear the brunt of the issue, along with station staffers and Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel. On October 7 this week, a victim had to be carried to the nearest hospital in a tempo because there was no ambulance available in the vicinity.

“The golden hour is often lost due to lack of ambulances to carry the railway accident victims,” said a railway official. In the case of the Sunday accident, the deceased had been hit by an express train near Agasan gate. The closest station in the case was Diva. Though an ambulance is always available at Thane station, it is still an hour away, sometimes even worse in case of traffic.

“The person needs to be taken to a hospital to be declared dead by a doctor unless the body is found in pieces where the call can be made by station staffers,” said the official, adding that in the city area, it is still easier because there are many hospitals around that can be asked for help. However, in a place like Diva, where there aren't any big hospitals around, the task is tougher.

“We have given our contact number to the station master and police officials to contact in such cases,” said Nitin Chavan, a member of Diva

Railway Pravasi Sangathana. The issues are not just limited to lack of transport but also include non-availability of hamaals (registered porters) and other medical facilities required in such cases, he added.

The deceased in the Sunday afternoon accident has not been identified yet. He is speculated to be a 26-year-old male. He was declared dead in a private hospital after being taken there in a tempo, while other officials took an auto to the hospital. In case he is not identified in the next seven days, other formalities will be completed and his body will be cremated by the railway police officials.

“One dead body was detected in mid section, about 3 kilometres away from Diva station on October 7 at 3:25 pm. No ambulance was available nearby, including the 108 ones. The GRP personnel, hamaal and stretcher were sent to the spot by a passenger train and a GRP memo was issued. Multiple ambulances were contacted by the station staff but they weren't available due to various reasons,” said a Central Railway spokesperson.

According to railway officials, the station staff and personnel are allowed to spend Rs 750 for the transportation cost in case they have to hire an ambulance or any other vehicle. However, there are times when  costs escalate in times of  emergency and the officials have to chip in to pay amounts to the tunes of Rs 1500 and more.

“Reaching the spot of the accident, finding the victim and taking them to the hospital takes time and ambulance owners tend to lose about two to three hours that they could use elsewhere to earn more money,” said a railway official. Around 15 to 18 cases of injuries and deaths in the Diva area are recorded on a monthly basis.

There is no ambulance parked by the station as is the case for other bigger stations. “Though the station is important for the railways in terms of train and freight traffic, the area in general is not that developed, which tends to bring it down in the list of priorities,” said a railway official on the condition of anonymity, adding that multiple requests have been made to the authorities regarding the availability of an ambulance, but no avail.

One of the most delicate issues at hand for the authorities is the availability of hamaals at the stations. While bigger stations like Thane still have registered porters to tackle the issue of dead bodies of accident victims, no one is hired for smaller stations like Diva. “Even if they were to hire someone, the job does not pay well,” said a railway official.

Essentially, the job of a hamaal is to remove the body and sometimes even body parts from the tracks. According to railway officials, the job requires a certain amount of alcohol in the system given just how brutal the circumstances are. Not only do they risk their physical health but also the mental health and well-being is at stake in such cases.

“During the times when consignments of fishes arrive at the station, there are many such people at the station who can be asked for help,” said a station staffer. However, during non-peak hours, people like the one offering shoe-polish services on the platform are asked to do so at meagre payment of about Rs 100 at a time, the staffer added.

According to GRP officials, in cases when no one is available, it's the police personnel and station staff that does the job of picking up the body or the injured person from the tracks. While talking about the case, an RPF official at Diva station said, “The person was dead but we cannot say so officially as we are not doctors. Even if they were alive, the life of a railway accident victim of this kind is extremely tough,” before losing himself in his train of thoughts.

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