Psychosocial Counselling for Balasore Train Tragedy Survivors

Psychosocial Counselling for Balasore Train Tragedy Survivors

Parbati's 20-year-old son Gopal Hembram died in the Balasore Train Tragedy on the night of 2 June 2023. A migrant worker, Gopal was traveling to Chennai from his village in West Bengal in search of work. Distraught Parbati refused to eat. Our volunteer counsellor, Anwesha Patnaik was by her side, supporting her through her loss. She ensured that she ate food finally.

In fact, Anwesha travelled from Benaras Hindu University to volunteer for Oxfam India. She was moved by the train tragedy and motivated by our humanitarian response which spoke about providing psychosocial counselling and support for the survivors and the families of those who died in the accident. 

At least 288 people died and over 1000 injured in the tragic three-train accident at Bahanaga Bazar Station in Balasore district of Odisha on June 2, 2023.

Survivors and families of victims of train accidents end up with life-long traumas. At Oxfam India we made a conscious decision to lend psychosocial support and counselling, besides food. We decided to set up help desks to help families look for their loved ones—missing or injured. The coaches which suffered the worst were the ones carrying migrant workers from Bengal, Bihar and Odisha to Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Watch Oxfam India CEO Pankaj Anand speaks to India Today

The Coromandel Express is also known to carry a lot of people going for treatment to CMCH, Vellore in Tamil Nadu. Chandana Ghosh, 24, was taking her four year old son to Chennai for his medical checkup. She was in the ill fated coach. She sustained major injuries to spinal cord & kidney. The child is safe but she refused to eat because of the trauma of not being able to hold him. Our counsellors spoke to her and helped her eat.

The counsellors were with us when we started response in Balasore. We were first at the accident site, there we started with the  assessment and coordination with the District Emergency Operation Centre and other agencies working for the survivors. Then we moved to AIIMS Bhubaneswar, where the administration announced would treat survivors and families will be able to identify the dead. in fact, we were the NGO to get the permission to set up a help desk; others were of the state governments of Odisha and West Bengal, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and the AIIMS Welfare Unit. Our final leg of the response was in Cuttack where survivors were being treated at the SCB Medical College. Besides Anwesha, our other counsellors were Subhasmita Mohanty, Dharmaprasad Das and Puspanjali Pradhan.

We received a lot of support and donations in addition to corporate donors such as Bharti AXA and Muthoot Finance. Because of the support we received,

  • 210 people received dry food packets — Bournvita, cake, juice, biscuit and water. 
  • 150 persons were provided bags of food and essential items — bedsheet, towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, juice, ORS tetra packs, cake, biscuit, and water. 
  • 1000 packets of buttermilk were distributed to people visiting their family members undergoing treatment. 
  • We had 4 counsellors. They supported 95 persons at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar and 250 persons at SCB Medical College, Cuttack. 
  • 1750 people visited our Help Desks— 350 at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar and 1400 at SCB Medical College, Cuttack. 

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