'Dead' man found alive after 11 years

A 38-year-old man, declared dead in the Jnaneswari train accident in 2010, has been found alive after 11 years.

The mystery was unravelled when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) detained Amritava Chowdhury, from Jorabagan in North Kolkata, on Saturday.

The man, who was 27 years old in 2010, was listed among the passengers who died in the train accident.

It occurred on May 28, 2010, in West Midnapore when Maoists allegedly caused the derailment of the Mumbai-bound Jnaneswari Express, which collided with a goods train, killing 148 passengers.

Chowdhury was declared dead on May 28, 2010, and his family claimed a compensation of Rs4 lakh ($7,250) from the railways.

His sister, Mahua Pathak, was also given a Central government job.

The CBI swung into action last year when it received a complaint from the office of general manager (vigilance), South Eastern Railways, on Aug 11 that Chowdhury was alive and Mahua, posted as an assistant signaller in Sealdah division, had forged documents to get the job.

Its officers began a discreet inquiry and quickly established the fact that Chowdhury is alive.

"A body with his DNA profiling was handed over to the family," said a CBI officer. "But it is clear now that the DNA report was tampered with because the body that was handed over to the family was not that of Amritava Chowdhury."

Railway officials said the identity of some of the dead could not be verified after the accident. "The bodies were handed over after claimants produced documents, including death certificate, of the deceased persons," said a ministry official.

The CBI has now filed a first information report against Chowdhury, Mahua and their parents, Mihir Kumar Chowdhury and Archana Chowdhury, for cheating. Investigations are on to find if government and private officials were involved.

"It is apparent that the Chowdhury family in connivance with some government officials tampered with the DNA profiling report to show that their son died in the train accident," said a senior police officer. "We have interrogated Amritava Chowdhury and noticed some discrepancies in his statements.

"We have come to know that he was missing for nearly seven years after the accident. It is not clear where he was all these years. Chowdhury couldn't recollect properly. We are surprised that a simple middle-class family was able to manipulate important documents so easily."

Chowdhuty claimed he is suffering from partial memory loss and could not recollect how the death certificate was obtained.

The CBI found that he used the name Saheb Chowdhury on Facebook. His social media profile from 2019 showed that he was engaged in the selling of flats and shops in Manteswar, Burdwan.

The agency is now conducting DNA and ossification tests (a process to know the exact age through bone mapping) to confirm his identity after people in his village said he had developed mental problems and couldn't remember anything.

CBI officers also matched Chowdhury with his old photographs and got in touch with his school and college. "It is true that his photographs matched but we want to be sure about his identity," said a CBI officer. "We have asked for documents from his school and college so that it can be corroborated with his present status."

He added that Chowdhury claimed to be an engineer but he couldn't answer basic engineering questions. "There is something wrong and we need to find it out," said the officer.

Chowdhury blamed the entire incident on the railways.

He told the media: "If we have taken any money unjustifiably, that will be returned with interest and my sister will quit the job if needed."

When asked if his family had connived to get compensation, he said: "Why are you asking me? Ask the railway officials. I shall speak when the time comes."

A CBI special court judge has directed the agency to submit a status report on the Chowdhury case by July 2.

Indo-Asian News Service

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