Bihar train tragedy: Victims' kin blame lack of road

Patna, Aug 20 (IANS) A day after at least 28 Hindu pilgrims were mowed down by a speeding train in Bihar, the survivors and families of victims Tuesday blamed lack of road access to a temple near the accident site for the tragedy.

They alleged that as there was no foot overbridge the pilgrims were crossing the track at a railway station to visit the temple when the Rajya Rani Express train hit them Monday morning in Khagaria district, over 150 km from here.

Babulal Yadav, who lost his 10-year-old son Ramgrish in the tragedy, said: "Pilgrims are forced to take the risk of crossing the track to visit Katyayani Temple as there is no road access."

"In the past, former chief minister Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi promised to construct a road but nothing happened. The present Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also promised to build a road to the temple, but it has remained on paper," said Yadav, a resident of Dushmudhi village.

Madhuri Mahto, who lost two minor sons Prem Raj and Ram Raj in the tragedy, said: "Pilgrims cross the tracks during festivals to reach the temple because there is no road facility."

"A road access to the temple could have saved so many lives," Mahto, a resident of Dhariyavas village, who himself was injured while saving his wife Sangeeta Devi during the accident, told IANS over telephone from a government hospital.

Suresh Singh, a villager from the area, slammed the delay in arrival of medical help and rescue teams after the tragedy.

"The family members and relatives of the victims carried them on their backs over seven km to reach the nearest highway and take them to hospital," Singh said.

Additional Director General of Police (law and Order) S.K. Bhardawaj admitted that rescue work at the accident spot was also delayed due to lack of road access.

National Disaster Response Force Director General Krishna Choudhary said in Patna that all states must develop disaster response structure down to the village level.

"There is a need to develop effective and accountable disaster response structure at the state level" said Choudhary, who is visiting the flood-hit state.

Nitish Kumar told mediapersons that road construction department had been directed to build an approved state highway on a priority to improve connectivity of the temple area and the spot close to the train accident site.

"I visited the temple during my tenure as railway minister. It is a very remote place. The terrain is difficult. There is no other means to reach the temple, except trains," he said.

Chief Public Relation Officer of East Central Railway Amitabh Prabhakar said that six seriously injured pilgrims were undergoing treatment at a hospital in Khagaria.

"Both the drivers of the train, who were thrashed by angry pilgrims after the accident, are undergoing treatment at a hospital and their condition is stable," he said.

According to district police officials, the pilgrims were going to the temple to offer holy water to Lord Shiva on the fourth and final Monday of the holy month of shravan (July-August) when the tragedy took place.

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