Monday, November 24, 2008

Death ride for kids... almost

Death ride for kids... almost

On Saturday, children who went for a joy ride aboard the toy train in Cubbon Park had a providential escape when the train derailed just short of the boating canal. The accident has not come as a surprise to observers, considering the poor upkeep of the facilities at Bal Bhavan

B K Lakshmikantha
Posted On Monday, November 24, 2008

What was meant to be a happy, fun-filled weekend outing at Bal Bhavan in Cubbon Park turned into a heart-stopping brush with death for around 75 children when their toy train ride ended in near-disaster on Saturday evening.

It was one of the day’s last trips for the Puttani Express (the toy train), and a whole lot of children excitedly boarded the train around 6 pm. But just minutes after the train started, it went off the tracks and came to a thudding halt, behind the Bal Bhavan canteen. Several of the children suffered painful knocks after being dashed against the compartment sides, but thankfully there were no serious injuries.

“Only when we went up to where it had stopped did we realise that it was a providential escape for my son and other children on the train,” said Rajajinagar 6th Block resident Kantha Bai, who was given a tearful account of the accident by her son Likith. As it happened, a major tragedy was averted as the toy train derailed just a few metres away from a canal that is used for boating.

Though the parents heaved a sigh of relief on seeing their wards safe, they couldn’t hold back their anger and slammed the Bal Bhavan authorities for gross negligence. Among those aboard the train were the children of two high-ranking police officers. The parents later went to the nearby Cubbon Park police station and informed the personnel there about the incident.

Sources among those manning Cubbon Park said it was an accident waiting to happen, adding that earlier too there had been two to three similar incidents related to the toy train. “Recently, the government released funds for upgrading the facilities for children in Cubbon Park, and that included the train project.

The Bal Bhavan authorities replaced the old train with a new one, but did not bother to change the tracks. All they did was to replace the gravel around the tracks. Had the track work been done properly, such an accident would not have happened,” the sources said. The toy train service has been a major attraction of the park for the last 30 years.

When Bangalore Mirror contacted the administrative officer of Bal Bhavan on Sunday, she said the toy train service had been suspended on account of repair work and denied outright that there had been a derailment.

Sunday saw a whole lot of children making a beeline for the toy train. They had to return disappointed on learning that the service was suspended. Given the ‘chalta hai’ approach of officialdom, their parents should thank their stars for small mercies — that all that was lost was an hour or so’s fun, and not something infinitely more precious.

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