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3 passengers die on Astha tourist pilgrimage train
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, May 17 - For passengers of the Astha special tourist pilgrimage train, which departed from the city on May 10 for religious spots in North India, the journey has turned out to be a harrowing experience with three of the pilgrims succumbing to ailments during the trip.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) sources said that Binoy Kumar Guin (75) of Pandu, Guwahati, complained of uneasiness at Varanasi and Haridwar, following which he was taken to SPS Hospital, Haridwar and later discharged.

He complained of the same conditions again at Amritsar and was taken to the Vivekananda Govt Hospital and then released. He was again taken to Mathura District Hospital following same conditions and was declared brought dead in the wee hours of May 16.

His body is being brought to Guwahati by ambulance and is scheduled to reach Guwahati by midnight today.

Runumi Hazarika (61) of Lankeswar, Guwahati, was travelling with her neighbours. She suffered from high fever at Mathura on May 15 and was taken to Maheswari Hospital. She died the next afternoon. Her family collected her body.

A total of 547 passengers were travelling on the train. It is scheduled to reach Guwahati by 8 pm tomorrow.

An IRCTC official told The Assam Tribune that the aged persons found the hot and humid conditions of North India extremely difficult, as they were not accustomed to such conditions.

“Utmost care was taken for the passengers and they were immediately rushed to hospital following complaints of uneasiness,” he said. The official admitted that there was some water scarcity at a point of time, but the problem was addressed.

The IRCTC is mulling making fitness certificates for the travellers mandatory from next time. The Astha route is Guwahati-Varanasi-Haridwar-Hrishikesh-Amritsar-Mathura-Agra. It left Guwahati on the intervening night of May 9 and 10.

Meanwhile, in a statement IRCTC, which manages the Astha service, said the tourists were all senior citizens and were suffering from high blood pressure, which, combined with the recent heat wave in North India, resulted in the tragedies.

Asked about the deaths, Northeast Frontier Railway officials refused to make any comments and said that the Astha services are being run and managed by IRCTC.

“Some more passengers were not feeling well. The doctor was called for attending on them at Bareili. The doctor had checked the passengers and given necessary medication,” said the IRCTC statement.

This was the second Astha train from the North East. The first such train had been flagged off on February 17. The service is intended to provide an opportunity to people to visit a mix of various popular religious destinations across the country at a reasonable rate.

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