There are 20 spots in the eastern and western railway zones of the country where stones are pelted by people at trains frequently
Incidents of pelting stones at running trains have turned out to be life-threatening for both commuters and railway staff.
A railway employee succumbed to his injuries on June 11 after a 41-day battle for life at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
Bayezid Shikder, a Bangladesh Railway inspector, was on duty aboard a Benapole commuter train, on the Khulna-Benapole route on April 30.
When the Khulna-bound train was crossing the Daulatpur station area, some unidentified assailants pelted stones at the running train, injuring the inspector.
Bayezid was immediately flown in an air ambulance to Dhaka's Square Hospital with serious injuries to his skull. Later he was transferred to BSMMU.
The railway authorities have filed a case over the incident.
Following this incident, D Engineers’ Club (DEC), a non-profit voluntary platform of BSMMU, launched an awareness campaign ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, regarding stone-throwing at trains.
As part of the three-day long campaign, volunteers distributed leaflets, plastered posters, and talked to train commuters at different rail stations from Chittagong to Feni.
The volunteers also campaigned among slum dwellers about railway acts and punishments and advised street children against pelting stones at running trains.
According to the organization, more than two hundred commuters, including railway staff, were injured in more than 15 incidents of stone-throwing in the last 12 months.
Soumen Kanungo, president of D Engineers’ Club, told the Dhaka Tribune that incidents of throwing stones were rising at an alarming pace.
“Children throw stones at moving trains in play, while miscreants pelt stones to cause harm. A survey shows underage children are responsible for 75% incidents of stone-throwing,” Soumen said.
“With the help of Bangladesh Railway, we have identified the risky spots where stones are thrown frequently. We can avert accidents if law enforcement brings culprits to book, and if we remain alert during our journey,” he added.
According to voluntary organizations, there are 20 spots in the eastern and western railway zones where stones are pelted at trains frequently.
The five spots in the eastern zone are Pahartali area in Chittagong city, Sitakunda-Barobkunda area in Chittagong district, Fazilur-Kalidaha area in Feni district, Fenchuganj-Maizgaon area in Sylhet, and the Jinardi-Narsingdi-Ghorashal areas.
The 15 spots in western zone where there is a higher incidence of stone throwing, include Chuadanga outer, Abdulpur railway station in Natore district, Shaheed S Mansur Ali Railway Station in Sirajganj district, Bangabandhu Bridge West Railway Station, Muladuli Railway Station in Pabna district, Kismat-Ruhia area in Panchagar and Thakurgaon districts, Bhangura Railway Station area in Pabna district, Bhelurpara Railway Station area in Bogra, Bamondanga Railway Station area in Gaibandha district, Akkelpur Railway station area in Joypurhat district, Ullapara Railway Station area in Sirajganj, Boral Bridge Railway Station area in Pabna district, Salap Railway Station area in Sirajganj district, Jamtoli Railway Station area in Sirajganj district, and Fultala Railway Station area in Khulna district.
According to the Railways Act, 1890, if a person unlawfully throws or causes to fall or strike at, against, into, or upon any rolling-stock forming part of a train, any wood, stone or other matter or thing with intent, or with knowledge that he is likely, to endanger the safety of any person being in or upon such rolling-stock, or in or upon any other rolling-stock forming part of the same train, he shall be punished with transportation for life or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years.
When asked for comment, Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Passengers’ Welfare Association, said that children playfully pelt stones at moving trains.
“It is a matter of grave concern that the incidents of stone pelting are rising alarmingly. More than a 100 people have sustained injuries and some 12 people have died from the resulting injuries. To avert the accidents, the railway acts should be implemented and awareness should be raised among the people,” Mozammel said.
Chittagong Railway Station Manager Abul Kalam Azad said there was no alternative to raising awareness among people for avoiding such deaths.
Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Syed Faruque Ahmed, general manager of Bangladesh Railway's east zone, said they have already identified the stone-pelting spots.
“We are raising awareness among people about pelting stones at moving trains. Railway Nirapatta Bahini and Government Railway Police are conducting drives to nab the culprits,” said the GM.
At a meeting held on May 17 to explore ways to stop stone-throwing incidents, Secretary of the Ministry of Railways, Md Mofazzal Hossain, said that on average at least 150 incidents of stone-throwing at running trains take place each year, causing Tk1.45 crore in losses to Bangladesh Railway.
Fourteen people were injured, a railway employee had died, and 2,000 train doors and windows were damaged as a result of stone-pelting, he said.
The stone-throwing incidents mostly occur in 15 districts of the country. Of these, 70 incidents were reported from 29 spots in the western region, while 80 incidents were reported from 36 spots in the eastern region last year, he added.
The Ministry of Railways has sent separate letters to the UNOs and OCs of those districts through the inspector general of police to take measures to prevent such incidents.
The ministry also sent letters to the Cabinet Division, directing the deputy commissioners concerned to hold meetings and to look into the matter.
It also sent letters to the Islamic Foundation asking imams to play a role in raising awareness about such incidents among people, said Mofazzal.
Superintendents of police in districts where stone pelting is most prevalent, have also been asked by the Home Ministry to take necessary steps to address the problem.