Drunk train guard puts hundreds of lives at risk on Mumbai local

Jan 12, 2015, 06:15 IST | Shrikant Khuperkar

CST-Titwala fast local halted suddenly as it was leaving Dombivli; when officials went to check why, they found Namdeo Sutake slumped against control desk with his foot on emergency brake

When things run like clockwork, it is easy to forget that every time you travel in a local train, you are putting your life in the hands of two people the motorman and the guard. Imagine finding out that one of them was drunk enough to have his foot on the emerge-ncy brake for at least 10 minutes without even realising it.

Namdeo Sutake (left) being taken away by an RPF officer at Dombivli station on Saturday night
Namdeo Sutake (left) being taken away by an RPF officer at Dombivli station on Saturday night

This is exactly what happened in the 7.55 pm CST-Titwala fast train on Saturday a time when trains are so packed that each rake carries hundreds of passengers. Railway authorities did not even realise that the guard, Namdeo Sutake, was allegedly drunk until the train was leaving from Dombivli, nearly an hour later.

Namdeo Sutake Rajesh Munde
Namdeo Sutake and the pointsman, Rajesh Munde (right), who replaced him

As it was pulling out of the station around 8.44 pm, the train suddenly halted, prompting the motorman to ring two bells in the guard’s cabin as an indication and to request permission to proceed. Sources said that there was no response and so the motorman sounded the train’s horn to indicate to the station master’s office that something was amiss.

A crowd had gathered around the guard’s cabin since the train halted at Dombivli for nearly 20 minutes
A crowd had gathered around the guard’s cabin since the train halted at Dombivli for nearly 20 minutes

“We thought the chain had been pulled in some compartment. When that happens, a siren goes off in the cabins of the motorman and the guard. A brake is also applied by the pulling of the chain and the train doesn’t move forward unless the problem is rectified,” said a Central Railway official.

Railway officials, thus, began examining all the compartments to find out where the train had been pulled. When they finally reached the guard’s cabin, they saw Sutake sitting on the chair with his head against the control desk and his foot on the emergency brake pedal.

This was discovered at 9 pm and commuters in the train and the platform had already begun to gather around the guard’s cabin. “The commuters were getting restless and began arguing. So, we had to make the guard disembark and let the train continue on its journey” said a rail official.

Rajesh Munde, a pointsman who is supposed to repair technical faults on tracks and overhead wires replaced Sutake in the cabin and he remained in charge till Kalyan, two stations away, where he was relieved by another guard.

Drinking en route?
Sutake was taken to the Kalyan railway hospital for his medical tests, the results of which are still awaited. An RPF official involved in the case, however, confirmed that Sutake was smelling of alcohol and it was apparent that he had been drinking.

“As per the process, the motorman and the guard have to undergo a breathalyser test before they board the train. Sutake must have consumed alcohol in the cabin, after the train left CST.

He has already been suspended,” said a railway official. When mid-day asked Sutake about his conduct, he simply said: “Maaf kara mala. Chuk zhali mazya hatun (Please forgive me. I have made a mistake)”.

Official speak
“If anyone is found drunk, we will take disciplinary action and issue a chargesheet,” said Chief PRO (Central Railway) Narendra Patil.

Endangering lives
The duties of a guard are as important as those of the motorman who pilots the train. The guard is supposed to monitor any untoward incident at the platform while the train is in motion, apply emergency brakes when needed, inform rail control in case of technical failures, and carry out several other duties meant to keep passengers safe.

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