Alertness and prompt action taken by night patrolmen in the early hours of Wednesday saved the lives of the passengers aboard the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Purushottam Express as suspected Maoists had bent the railway track and removed ‘pandrol clips’ between the Gidhni and the Jhargram stations of Kharagpur division in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district.

The region has a strong Maoist presence and had witnessed the holdup of the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express by the Maoists on October 27.

A statement released by the South Eastern Railway (SER) authorities stated that the patrolmen were out on duty when they detected a “group of miscreants trying to bend the railway track and removing ‘pandrol clips’ [devices that hold the railway tracks to the concrete sleepers] at about 1.15 a.m”.

According to the statement, the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Purushottam Express passed Gidhni station at 1.14 a.m. and was scheduled to pass through the spot any moment. The damaged track could have resulted in the train’s derailment.

The patrolmen immediately informed the Gidhni station authorities following which train movement in both the up and down directions were stopped.

Mamata to reward patrolmen

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, at a railway function at Howrah station on Wednesday, lauded the efficiency of the patrolmen, K. Mahato and Panchu Ram, and announced that they would be rewarded for the act.

After the railway officials, Railway Protection Force and local police rushed to the spot, it was found that pandrol clips of 400 metre of track were missing, the tracks were bent at several places and a sleeper was kept diagonally over one of the tracks, the statement added.

Trains delayed, cancelled

Fifteen trains, including the Down Pune-Howrah Azad Hind Express, Down Mumbai- CSTM-Howrah Geetanjali Express, Up Purushottam Express, Up Chennai-Guwahati Express and Up Howrah-Ahmedabad Express, were delayed by an average of four hours while two trains each were short-terminated and rescheduled and one had to be cancelled.

Normality was restored at around 7.45 a.m. on Wednesday, SER authorities said.

PSBJC torches 3 trucks

Meanwhile, supporters of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC) torched three potato-laden trucks at Mohanpur on the National Highway 6 in the Paschim Medinipur district on the day.

The incident happened on the last day of the indefinite blockade that was called by the PSBJC since December 18 even as the outfit had announced on Tuesday that the blockade would be called off from December 31 keeping in mind the inconvenience faced by the local population.

Gunfire

There were also reports of exchange of gunfire between the Maoists and the security personnel at Bhalukchira camp near Goaltore late on Tuesday.