It is not for no reason that railway systems across the world urge passengers to “mind the gap” between the train and the platform. Jitendra Rai, a 44-year-old security guard, learnt this the hard way. On Tuesday evening, Jitendra was at New Delhi railway station to catch a train to his village in UP’s Ballia, when he slipped into the gap between platform number 13 and the Patna Rajdhani Express, which had started to move.
In the seconds before the moving train was halted by what he described as stroke of sheer luck, Jitendra thought this was it. “I thought I was going to die,” he told The Indian Express over phone from Ballia on Thursday. “It was sheer luck that someone stopped the train.” The train, already delayed by over three hours due to the fog, got further delayed by another hour. It finally left at 9.50 pm.
It was the guard of the train who spotted Jitendra and pulled the emergency brakes. Literally sandwiched waist-down between the iron foot-board of the coach, a guard van, and the concrete platform, Jitendra said he was beginning to pass out.
What ensued was an hour-long rescue operation that culminated with cutting a portion of the platform to save him. “I was barely conscious… it was very painful as the stairs of the train (footboard) was pressing against me. I heard someone shouting and a number of people came rushing towards me,” he said.
There is no manual that lays out a standard operating procedure on “how to rescue a passenger trapped in the platform gap”. Railway staff — officials from Railway Protection Force, Government Railway Police, members of the carriage and wagon crew, track maintenance team, and station officials — tried various ways to get him out.
A few of them first tried to wrench him free but it only aggravated the pain. “He was very scared. So we tried to keep him calm while figuring how to get him out,” said SC Saini, assistant sub-inspector of RPF, who was part of the team that rescued Jitendra. Those maintaining the tracks arrived with heavy hammers, crowbars and other tools and tried to bend the iron foot-board. That too proved futile.
No one remembers exactly who it was that came up with the idea to break the platform. Saini said: “Someone shouted that we should cut the platform instead. Everybody seemed to like the idea.” Hammers were quickly pressed into action and finally, after multiple blows on concrete, there appeared a slight gap.
By then a few of the staff had loosened the foot-board by fiddling with the welded screws. Jitendra was finally pulled out amid loud cheers from the crowd. He said he was fine but in pain. A railway ambulance took him LNJP Hospital, where he was given first aid and discharged. Asked how he fell in, some officials said Jitendra was probably under the influence of alcohol — a fact he had admitted before the doctor. “Just a little bit. I just slipped and fell,” he said.