Panic gripped Howrah station on Tuesday afternoon after an olive green metal box, containing mortar shells, were discovered on board the Orissa-bound Bhadrak Passenger. The Army's bomb disposal squad was pressed into action and it was found that two booking clerks had misplaced the box. The two have been suspended.
The box was spotted by two porters who were placing luggage in the train. They informed some ticket collectors and soon members of the railway bomb disposal squad were on the job.
Taking the box away from the compartment, personnel from GRP and the Railways Protection Force along with state police cordoned it off with sand bags. What added to the panic was the word 'Explosive' emblazoned on top.
According to senior railway officers, the Howrah-bound Bhadrak Passenger entered Santragachi railway yard around 10.30 am after which it was washed and thoroughly checked by maintenance staff. “Surprisingly no one noticed the container then,” a senior officer said.
Howrah divisional railways manager Muhammad Jamshed said investigation revealed that the consignment, belonging to Arms & Ammunition Factory Kirkee in Maharashtra, was booked to Proof & Experimental Establishment (PXE) —the test firing range at Orissa's Chandipur.
“It was supposed to be delivered to PXE officials at Balasore but was over-carried to Howrah. The parcel clerk at Balasore and the train examiner at Santragachi have been suspended for the lapse on their part,” Jamshed said.
While GRP additional director general Dilip Mitra said the inscription indicated that the box contained 10 highly explosive grenades, MoD spokesman in Kolkata, Group Captain RK Das refuted it. “It contained empty mortar shells and could not have caused any danger to anybody.”
(With inputs From Drimi Chaudhuri)