Kolkata: Within minutes of the fatal Bikaner-Guwahati train accident that happened near Domohoni bridge and Mainaguri in north Bengal, Red volunteers swung into action, arranging treatment for the injured and organising blood collection camps in the offices of the Students' Federation of India (SFI) and the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) in the vicinity. The offices remained open throughout the night at the Mainaguri bazaar area catering for the injured.
Names of five Red volunteers was shared with the public for assistance. Several volunteers also got in touch with the railway authorities to donate blood for the injured. Connections with the district blood bank were also established. Further, 40 Red volunteers donated blood on an emergency basis at Jalpaiguri district hospital to cater to the patients injured in the accident.
So far, nine persons are reported to have lost their lives, and over 50 have been grievously injured in the fatal train accident.
Red volunteers, a semi-formal grouping of left-wing activists formed in March 2020, has been active in West Bengal to tackle the COVID-19 situation, bridging the gap between the patient's requirement and the government infrastructure, which, on multiple occasions, fell short during the previous two waves of the pandemic.
SFI Jalpaiguri local committee secretary Anirban De said that the volunteers gathered at the SFI office within minutes of getting the news of the accident.
Some directly went to Jalpaiguri District Hospital to donate blood for the injured at the Jalpaiguri district blood bank. In the meantime, the wounded evacuated from the accident site started pouring into the district hospital for treatment. According to hospital sources, the available stock of blood was under pressure at that moment. Responding to the emerging situation, the Red volunteers made teams willing to donate the blood, and if needed, for direct transfusion also.
A special helpline number and a control room were formed at the Mainaguri SFI office for the kin of the injured, where the situation was monitored in real-time.
CPI(M) Mainaguri area committee secretary Apurba Roy reached the accident site and started taking stock of the situation. Alongside the Red volunteer teams, she started working together with the NDRF team deployed there for the relief and rescue operations. Before this, local villagers had been trying to enter the derailed coaches in vain.
On Friday, a blood donation camp was also organised before the North Bengal Medical College to cater to the injured victims of the train accident.
In 2020, progressive-minded youth had come forward to stand beside the people of the state affected by the lockdown. "It was a rich, micro-level experience for almost all of them as they helped people fight the crisis," said Kallol Majumdar, CPI(M) Kolkata district secretary and a backer of the Red Volunteers in the state. He said that at the onset of the initiative, it was not clear to the youth participants what the requirements of the people were. "However, working for three months, they gained a lesson about their needs. Now at the beginning of the third wave, they are more prepared. At this time, if under a decentralised structure, these volunteers can stand beside the needy, it will confer upon them a rich experience," Majumdar said.
Though the train accident was not related to the COVID-19 crisis for which the Red volunteers were set up, their preparedness has come in handy for saving umpteen lives in the tragic derailing incident.