The presence of rats on trains have been more than a nuisance to passengers, even on higher-end AC coaches for years.
But Sanjeev Kolur, who survived the fatal blaze on the Bangalore-Nanded Express on Saturday morning, is now contemplating taking the Railways to the consumer court over lack of hygiene. He believes the fire was caused by rats in the compartment, which had chewed into electric wires and left them exposed.
Kolur, a regional sales manager in a private firm, said he and others saw rats running around the coach. “We even had an argument with the TTE on the poor condition of blankets given to us and the rats,” he told Express. He said many passengers believed the rats may have chewed into the wires and helped cause a short circuit that led to the fire.
Ironically, this very lack of hygiene may have also helped saved the lives of Kolur and his fellow passengers by keeping them awake. “We did not take the blankets that were provided to us because they were unwashed and dirty. The blankets were brought to us around 12.30 am and we protested with the TC and even filed a complaint in the complaint book. When we finally went to bed, it was past 1 am. But, we could not sleep because it was very cold. I woke up a little later because of the cold. This is when we heard screams,” he recalls. Kolur said many passengers, in panic, tried to push open the door when they were supposed to pull it open.
Railway officials, who wished to remain anonymous, concurred with Sanjeev’s suspicion. “It is possible that rats chewed into the wires and exposed them,” an official said.
They explained that the cushioning, curtains and blankets acted as fuel and increased the fire’s intensity. “As the compartments are completely closed, the smoke would have engulfed the entire coach within moments,” an official said.