New Delhi:- When 55-year-old M. Gulam Dhasthagir, a loco pilot of Tiruchi Railway Division walked up to receive the national award from the Minister of Railways recently, it was a momentous occasion in his career.

His alertness and dexterity in averting a possible major accident a few months ago while piloting a passenger train earned him national recognition from the Railway Board.

Based at the Crew Controller’s Office at Villupuram, Mr. Dhasthagir was the lone loco pilot in the entire Southern Railway zone to receive the prestigious “National Award for Outstanding Service” this year.

Mr. Dhasthagir was chosen for the award for the vigilance he displayed while piloting the train in warding off a collision with a van that carried a group of 30 schoolchildren on August 25, 2014.

The incident took place on August 25 when Dhasthagir was piloting the Karaikal–Bangalore passenger (56513) on a bright morning.

He was tasked with the job of piloting the train from Tiruvarur to Vriddhachalam on that day. The train chugging at a speed of 75 kmph was on its way to Vriddhachalam after leaving Cuddalore.

“It was around 8.30 a.m. when I noticed a school van trying to cross an unmanned level-crossing between Cuddalore and Kurinjipadi stations from a long distance,” said Mr. Dhasthagir.

The van had crossed the first track and was moving forward to cross the second track, he says.

Having noticed from a long distance the trespass by the van, Mr. Dhasthagir immediately applied the brakes without getting alarmed.

The application of brakes slowed down the train and brought it to a halt well before the unmanned level-crossing thereby averting collision with the van.

Mr. Dhasthagir said he alighted from the loco and jotted down the name of the van driver, the number of children it carried, and the school it belonged to before proceeding.

The train was detained for about 10 minutes at the spot and upon reaching Kurinjipadi railway station, Mr. Dhasthagir informed the duty station master in writing regarding the incident and the reason for the minor delay.

It was “god’s grace” that a major accident was averted, he says humbly.

“I felt happy when I received the national award which will motivate me to put in my best,” he says.

The award was given to him during the Railway Week National Awards Function 2015 held at Guwahati in Assam.

Having joined the running staff cadre in 1989, Mr. Dhasthagir says he started piloting passenger trains from 2012 onwards in various sections in Tiruchi Division.

Prior to this, he was piloting goods train from 2006 to 2011. He has shown extreme presence of mind and stopped the train thereby avoiding an untoward incident, says a senior railway officer here.

Having spotted the van on the tracks, Mr. Dhasthagir immediately applied the brakes without getting alarmed