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The heroes of a Punjab village
Onkar Singh in Harsa-Mansar | December 15, 2004 23:45 IST
Though the army, police and nongovernmental agencies did lend a hand in removing the dead bodies and taking the injured to the hospitals, the real heroes of the Harsa-Mansar accident -- which involved the Jammu Tawi-Ahmedabad Express and Jallandhar-Pathankot Diesel Multiple Unit passenger train -- were the villagers of Harsa-Mansar itself.
Subedar Tilaj Raj of the 13th Sikh Regiment was going to have his lunch on Tuesday when he heard a loud bang. "When I came out I saw bogies of two trains had been thrown off the rails and people were screaming for help. I and some of my neighbours immediately rushed out to help the victims," he told rediff.com
His house is located barely a hundred metres from the accident site.
More then 150 former and serving army jawans live in the vicinity.
Subedar (retd) Kuldeep, who tills his lands to earn a living, and others also rushed out.
"When we reached the place Punjab police was nowhere in the picture," he said. "Youngsters from our village volunteered to take the injured to the hospital on their tractors and other modes of transport. We stopped the cars and other vehicle on the national highway and forced them to shift the injured to the hospital. The army jawans and officers from nearby units were pressed into service with gas cutters to pull out the dead bodies and the injured."
The village women made tea and food for the volunteers.
P C Sharma, who runs a stationary shop on the Jalandhar-Pathankot highway in Harsa-Mansar, claimed that the government was underplaying the toll. "They say that the number of dead is 38, but I can tell you that more then two hundred people have died in the accident," he said.
K K Sharma, 55, lay injured in the Mukerian Civil Hospital. Sharma, a businessman who deals in computers, could have caught an earlier train from Bhagala station and reached his destination without any problem. "I felt too lazy to run a couple of paces to catch the Sealdah Express. I had barely got into the local DMU when the accident took place. I was thrown off my seat and now I have cracks in both the shoulders," Sharma told rediff.com
Five-year-old Komal does not know she has lost her mother and her brother. Pala Ram, her father, had gone to the hospital to get their bodies while her uncle was attending to her. "Since yesterday she has eaten little and is waiting for her mother and brother to return so that she can go home and play," said one of her relatives. Komal and her family were going to their home in Pathankot when the tragedy struck.
Jaspal Singh, the assistant driver of the Jammu Tawi-Ahmedabad Express, was taken to Ludhiana for treatment but he could not be saved. He passed away on Wednesday morning. Harjinder Singh the other driver, is undergoing treatment.
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