In a remarkable display of bravery and quick thinking, 12-year-old Mursalim Sheikh from Malda, West Bengal, averted a major train accident and saved the lives of hundreds of passengers on September 24.
On a fateful Saturday afternoon, Mursalim was walking along the tracks when he noticed that the soil and pebbles had been washed away from under the tracks. With the Northeast-bound Kanchenjungha Express from Sealdah rapidly approaching, Mursalim sprang into action. He took off his red T-shirt and started waving it. The loco pilot noticed the signal and pulled the emergency brakes, bringing the train to a halt ahead of the damaged portion.
Mursalim’s quick thinking averted a potential disaster, as railway staff arrived soon after to carry out necessary repairs. The train then safely continued on its journey.
The railways said in a media release issued by Sabyasachi De, chief public relations officer, Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), “We salute the boy’s approach towards the society...”.
On Saturday, the NFR headquarters in Assam, known as Maligaon, received a phone call from the same official who said, "Our men spotted the damage under the track and informed the concerned authorities who, in turn, informed the driver. It was not the boy."
He stuck to his statement when he was contacted again on Sunday and said over the phone, "Whatever I have said is based on information gathered from our sources."
Who is Mursalim Sheikh
Mursalim, a Class VI student, is the son of Mohammad Ismail, a migrant worker, and Marjina Bibi, a bidi worker. His father is currently in Gujarat. Mursalim’s heroic act has brought pride to his family and his village, Jhangarpara, in the Harishchandrapur-II block of the district.
Despite initially denying Mursalim’s role in preventing the accident, the Indian Railways eventually acknowledged his bravery. A senior railway official visited Mursalim’s home and felicitated him. However, public figures in Malda feel that the railways should have offered more than the Rs 1,500 token of appreciation.
The Railways offered a token of appreciation, a paltry sum of Rs 1,500, which barely scratches the surface, in their supposed generosity. Mursalim and his mother, with his father away working as a migrant worker in Gujarat, even acknowledged the delayed appreciation.
On Monday, the chief public relations officer who had initially denied that Mursalim had any role in averting a train mishap, said: “We rewarded the boy for his awareness of railway safety. But our men passed the information ahead and stopped the train.”
Why the delay?
The North-East Frontier Railway, based in Maligaon, acknowledged the 12-year-old hero's actions only after reportedly denying it twice.
They reported, "A 12-year-old child in Malda waved his red shirt at the train, causing the loco-pilot to apply emergency brakes and stop the passenger train. The child did this because the railway track was damaged due to heavy rains."
The railway staff claimed they had spotted the damaged track first and informed the authorities. The NFR (spokesperson) stuck to their version of the story twice before changing their stance.
Finally, on Monday, the Katihar Divisional Railway Manager, along with Maldaha Uttar MP Khagen Murmu, arrived at Mursalim's village, Jhangarpara, to present a certificate and an award of Rs 1,500, signaling official recognition. However, for many in the village and beyond, this reward appears woefully insufficient, especially considering Mursalim's family's conditions.
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