Barely 100 metres away from the mangled remains of Indore-Patna Express sat Rasoolabad tehsildar Ram Dayal in the middle of the scores of bags kept in an empty field.
Dayal, along with two policemen, had sifted through the luggage and taken the cash and jewellery in their safe custody, to be later given back to their rightful owners. His job included making a list of bags and items before moving them to Reserve Police Lines in Mati Akbarpur, about 20 km from the accident site.
He found a number of mobile phones belonging to the passengers and attended to the calls being made by distressed family members. “I tried to console them and give them strength. I asked them to collect their belongings. Such is the tragedy that at times I could not control my emotions and wept with them,” Dayal said.
One of the bags at the spot was partially open and from it a wedding invitation card was peeping out. It was the wedding card of Rakesh Soni, who lost his life in the mishap.
Dayal spent 20 hours going through the pile of luggage and found Rs 3 lakh cash in old and new banknotes, 40 rings, 67 bangles, two jewellery sets, 80 watches and 600 bags.
Every time he was approached by the injured looking for their belongings, he would leave his work and join them. “Thirty-four people found their luggage at the spot. They had injuries but wanted to go back home,” he said.
Bride-to-be Ruby Gupta had been looking for her missing father Ram Prasad. Ram Prasad’s body was eventually found at a mortuary. Later, Ruby started looking for her belongings and approached Dayal. “I handed over her bag to her. The jewellery that her father had bought was intact. Nothing was missing,” Dayal recalled.
“I will never forget the expressions on the faces of the people. Getting their belongings back lessened their pain to an extent,” he added.
He also sent a number of passengers to the police in his vehicle to help them find out their possessions . People from nearby villages also extended help and gave to him whatever they found. “I have seen tragedies. I know people take with them whatever they find. But here, they were kind enough to give it to us,” Dayal said.