In Jharkhand’s Maoist hotbed Palamu, railway authorities are fighting a new enemy, literally armed to the teeth – rats.
Colonies of rodents which have made home under the tracks have been cited as the reason for at least three train derailments at the Daltonganj railway station in one year, the last incident as recent as Sunday’s.
Luckily all the trains derailed were goods train.
Railway sources said that the packs of rats have rendered the earth beneath the tracks very unstable by digging their shelters – a maze of rat holes.
Daltonganj railway station traffic inspector AK Sinha played it safe till investigations into Sunday’s derailment are over.
“Rodents are being suspected for the derailment. But, it was not the only cause. We are investigating the incident and also measuring the wagons. The actual reason of derailment can be ascertained when the final investigation report comes,” Sinha said.
He, however, admitted the menace of growing rodents on the railway track. “Food grain-laden trains arrive on a regular basis on this track attracting rodents,” he said.
A railway employee who was witness to Sunday’s derailment said the train appeared to have received several jerks before several wagons derailed. He said the tracks over the loose earth could not take the weight of the wagons.
The sources added that the rats are breeding rapidly due to a never exhausting supply of food – grains spilled on the tracks during loading and unloading from the railway wagons.
Most of the goods trains to Daltonganj, around 170 km from Ranchi, ferry grains transported by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for three districts -- Palamu, Garhwa and Latehar.
The Daltonganj railway station carries the model railway station tag. Hence, the freak derailments are not only causing disrepute to the station but also causing sleepless nights to the railway authorities.
Sources said that the Daltonganj railway officials have written to “higher railway authority” to float tenders for inviting private parties to check the rat menace.
Sanjay Kumar, the public relation officer (PRO) of Dhanbad railway division said that they were yet to receive a final report on the derailments. “If any report of rodents causing the damage comes, the division will certainly take action.”
Palamu is one of the several districts in the state which had faced Maoist atrocities, including attacks on railway installations, over the years.
“However, these rats are proving to a tougher lot,” a railway official said on condition of anonymity.