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Aftermath of Odisha Train Collision: Survivors' Trauma and Compensation Ordeals

Survivors of the Odisha train collision face a long and arduous journey towards healing and recovery, as they grapple with the traumatic aftermath of the tragedy. In addition to their physical and emotional scars, these individuals find themselves entangled in a web of bureaucratic complexities, as they navigate the challenges of seeking rightful compensation and justice.

By The Probe
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(Produced below are the abridged version of the transcripts of the Podumentary)

The tragic train collision in Odisha has left survivors grappling with trauma and bureaucratic complexities as they seek compensation and justice. With physical and emotional scars, these individuals face challenges in rebuilding their lives and navigating the aftermath of the devastating incident.

On June 2nd, a tragic Odisha train collision occurred in the Balasore district of Odisha. The incident involved the collision of three trains, resulting in the deaths of nearly 300 people and injuries to more than 100 others. This train accident is considered India’s deadliest railway crash since 1995 and the deadliest worldwide since the 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami train wreck. The crash has sparked discussions about railway safety and has called for accountability from the government, particularly the railway ministry. We spoke to the crash survivors as they recounted the horrors they experienced.

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Papan Mal, a survivor from West Bengal, shared his harrowing experience of the Odisha train collision. He was in the emergency room of a hospital when he narrated the events to The Probe. He was travelling on the Coromandel Express train when the accident occurred.

“A loud sound was heard, and within a second, everything was over. I was sitting in the bunker of the general compartment, and there were eight of us. People were pushing each other and gradually were falling here and there. There were people with missing legs… with missing heads. I got off the train with a lot of difficulty and saw dead bodies lying everywhere. We weren’t used to seeing so much blood, and our heads started spinning. We did not even realise that our legs were broken. Such was the impact of the crash,” said Papan.

After the train accident, the government faced criticism for providing inadequate compensation to the families of the deceased and the injured. The survivors and their families, already grappling with the physical and emotional aftermath of the tragedy, now find themselves burdened with the additional financial strain of medical expenses and the need to rebuild their lives. Mukesh Pandit, a survivor from Jharkhand, highlighted the inadequate government compensation that has left individuals like him struggling to cover their medical expenses. “We received compensation from the railways, but the cheque hasn’t been cleared yet. I have borrowed money for my treatment and continue struggling,” noted Mukesh.

The initial investigations into the collision revealed a glaring oversight by the railways, with a signalling error as a potential cause. Rupan Marandi, a survivor from Jharkhand, found himself trapped between lifeless bodies during the accident. “There was a loud noise, and the train bogie collapsed on us. We got thrown at least 100-200 feet away from the bogey. When I was thrown away, I was not conscious. After gaining consciousness, I was told that the bogie had overturned. So, I started getting out of the place. There was a dead body beneath me and another dead body above me. I was stuck between the dead bodies and thought I would die too. I somehow managed to come out by moving the dead bodies aside,” Rupan recounted.

Ajay Kumar Palei, another survivor from Odisha, vividly recalled the harrowing moments of the train accident. He sustained multiple injuries, including a broken hand, shoulders, and a swollen knee.

“I was travelling in S4 from Balasore to Bhubaneswar that day. My seat number was 71 in the S4 compartment. There was a loud noise before the accident, and we experienced a massive jolt. The passengers seated above fell down, and I got injured. By God’s grace, I survived. So many people died in front of me. The government has provided me with compensation of 50,000 rupees,” Ajay said.

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Mohan Sahni, a survivor from Bihar, reflected on the tragic consequences of the Odisha train collision, where families were torn apart, and lives were forever changed. “I was travelling with my children from Shalimar on the Coromandel Express train. There were eight of us. Many people died in front of me. Some lost their sons. Some lost their fathers. Some became widows. I got a cheque of 50,000 rupees from the government. They said they would deposit 2 lakh rupees in our accounts, but it has not come yet,” Mohan rued.

Samas Uddin and his sister, survivors from Assam, expressed gratitude for their survival amidst the tragedy. However, they face a lengthy recovery period and uncertainty about further treatment expenses. “Almost everyone in my bogie died. God saved my life. My hands and legs are broken. The people around me… Some lost their hands. Some lost their legs. Some had broken heads, and some others died. I fell unconscious after seeing all this. I have never seen such an accident in my life. My sister sustained injuries too. In my family, both my wife and I are earning members. We have young children in the family. We will take two more months to recover. We were told by the doctors at Balasore Hospital that we have to go back to our village for further treatment, but we don’t have money for our treatment,” rued Samas. 

Hindu Marandi, a survivor from Odisha, recalled the train accident that left him and many others in a state of utter shock. He said he received a 50,000 rupees compensation cheque but has been unable to encash it. In another instance, Katia Maghei has faced similar challenges with the government’s compensation cheque. To his dismay, Katia, a survivor from Odisha, discovered that the most crucial detail, the amount, was missing from the cheque.

Such was the impact of the crash that, as we spoke to more survivors, we found that they were still grappling with the incident. Not only do they face financial burdens, but they also carry deep mental scars from the tragedy. “I have only one thing on my mind: that we will not eat food. We will stay hungry, but we will stay at home. We will never travel by train again. My mind is overcome by fear after what I saw at the crash site. I am unable to sleep at night. Once I close my eyes, I can only see the horror I witnessed that day. Nothing more. Nothing less,” stated Mukesh. 

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