Yash Raj Films just released the teaser for their debut OTT venture, The Railway Men. Starring R Madhavan, Kay Kay Menon, Divyendu, and Babil Khan, the limited series will be a tribute to the railway workers at Bhopal station – the unsung heroes of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
While the teaser did not reveal more details, the series will probably be based on a true story from a disaster that caused unimaginable suffering to lakhs of people.
The story is that of the railway workers at the Bhopal Railway station on the night of 2nd December, 1984, who helped save thousands of lives.
Thirty seven years ago, an accident at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal released almost 30 tons of a highly toxic gas called methyl isocyanate, and the entire city turned into a vast gas chamber.
Unaware of what was happening around him, Ghulam Dastagir, the deputy station master of Bhopal railway station, was winding up his usual chores a little past midnight. When he went to platform 1 to check the arrival of Gorakhpur-Mumbai Express, he felt an itching sensation in his eyes and throat.
Sensing some commotion at the station entrance gate, he rushed to his boss’ office. The station superintendent and his boss, Harish Dhurve, had already choked to death. Dastagir learned that Dhurve and 23 of his colleagues succumbed to inhaling the toxic gas while they were on the platform letting a train pass without halting at the Bhopal railway station.
This was the moment when Dastagir realised that the entire railways station was also engulfed in toxic fumes. Instead of running to a safe place, he stayed at the station – for the safety of thousands others.
The Gorakhpur-Mumbai Express has already arrived at the platform and was supposed to halt there for around 20 minutes. Dastagir took a quick decision and asked the meagre railway staff remaining to clear the track so that the train could depart immediately.
He took the complete responsibility of letting the train depart 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time and did not wait for orders from the head office.
Dastagir made a life-saving decision while he himself was choking and gasping for breath. Manzoor Ahmed Khan, a colleague of his, once recalled:
He could barely stand and breathe, nor was he able to talk. But without taking permission from anyone, he risked his life to flag off the train. If he had not done that imagine the magnitude of the casualty.
He also informed all other stations to cancel all trains coming to Bhopal. He did all of this on duty and went beyond his duty to attend to passengers stuck on the railway station. They were choking, vomiting and crying. Dastagir arranged for medical help by sending out an SOS message to the nearby railway offices.
While he was attending to victims at the station, his own family was dying in the city. Reports suggest that one of his sons died on the night of the tragedy.
He himself spent 19 years of his life suffering from various diseases. When he breathed his last in 2003, his death certificate noted that he was suffering from diseases because of direct exposure to the deadly Methyl Iso Cyanide (MIC) gas.
If not for Dastagir and his devotion, we have no idea how many more lives would have been lost.
Not many of us know of his heroic acts. His wife spoke to BBC about how he has always been dedicated to duty.
I knew him always being like that. Once there was an accident and he didn’t come home for three days.
It been over 3 decades since the tragedy happened. The railways recognised the sacrifice of the workers who saved many lives that night by installing a plaque on platform number 1 of Bhopal railway station. But Ghulam Dastagir is not on the list.
I’ll leave it here hoping that The Railway Men does some kind of justice to the brave and unsung hero, that Dastagir is and always be.
You can watch the teaser here.