Masaipet people yet to learn lessons from school van tragedy

Masaipet people yet to learn lessons from school van tragedy

On July 24, this year, 14 children of Kakatiya Techno school of Toopran, the bus driver and the cleaner lost their lives and 21 others were injured when the Nanded-Hyderabad passenger train rammed into the vehicle in which they were travelling at an unmanned level crossing.

The mishap happened at level crossing number 233 between Masaipet and Srinivasa Nagar railway stations on the Hyderabad-Nizamabad section, in Medak district of Telangana at 9.10 am. As many as 38 children were in the school bus at the time of the accident.

The bus was on its way to Masaipet village from neighbouring Islampur through NH 7 when the accident occurred. The school bus, which was passing through the level crossing, was hit by the passenger train at a very high speed and was dragged along the tracks with the children for almost a kilometre before coming to a halt.

The South Central Railway’s investigation concluded that the accident occurred due to the negligence of bus driver Bhikshapathi Goud, who ignored the fast approaching train and drove on. Bhikshapthi was a stand-in driver for the person who knew the route very well.

The new driver chose a different route to Masaipet, leading the bus and the children into a death trap. Besides, on that day, the Nanded-Secunderabad passenger was running late by almost four hours.

Booms (gates) were erected at the LC 233 on the same day after the bodies and the debris were removed as the construction of the control room at the unmanned level crossing had been completed long time back and was awaiting inauguration.

The track is fairly busy as 44 trains pass (up and down) through the level crossing everyday, including Hyderabad-Nanded, Kacheguda-Nizamabad, Mahbubnagar-Bodhan passengers and Kacheguda-Akola, Vizag-Nanded, Sambalpur-Nanded, Tirupathi-Aurangabad, Tirupathi-Amaravathi,Yeswanthpur-Indore,Chennai-Nagarsole, Vizag-Sainagar and Secunderabad-Jaipur express trains.

“On November 17, some miscreants threw a stone from Bodhan Express at gateman Y Ramanjaneyulu, who was on duty, smashing his right jaw bone. Since then I am the only one manning the gate,” says K Nagabhushanam who now mans the gate along with gangmen who generally cover for the injured gateman during nights.

The gateman’s woes do not end there. The residents of Masaipet who are not used to closing of gates almost every half an hour, abuse him for obstructing their free way despite of the fact that the LC 233 witnessed the most unfortunate accident just six months ago. “People cross the tracks even when the gates are closed. Vehicle owners blame me for closing the gates early without understanding the nuances of signalling between stations,” Nagabhushanam says.

The gatemen now have their own mobile phones to keep in contact on regular basis. “No one wants to work in Masaipet as there are three crossings in a gap of 3 km,” gangman Mallesh, who also acts as a gateman, says.

The Srinivasa Nagar station was constructed during the tenure of MP Vijyashanthi to appease voters of her constituency. Unlike the days of unmanned level crossing, the villagers are upset as their movement is restricted with all the three entrances at LC 232, 233, 234  closing simultaneously.

But for Veerababu and Neeraja, the parents of Darshan Goud (6) who survived the July 24 ordeal, the gates at the level crossing are god sent. “We have decided to send our boy to school again as his travel to school is safer now,” they say. Darshan still shudders to recall the

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