ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Malabar Khalasis Traditional Technology to the Rescue in Perumon

bank of the Ashtamudi lake haunting the memory of many a rail traveller who passes through the Perumon Bridge near Quilon from where nine bogies of the Island Express plunged into the lake on July 8 last year killing 106 passengers. It is a strange coincidence that only in the face of such a tragedy, should the potential of traditional technology for certain operations be demonstrated. When several techniques of contemporary engineering supported by massive machinery were struggling in vain to lift the bogies1 from the depths of the lake it was the khalasis of Beypore and Chaliyam who lifted them with relative ease. The khalasis withdrew from the lifting operation proper only when the Armed Recovery Vehicle (ARV) of the army took over the task. Even then, they assisted the army in tying the iron ropes to the bogies which lay several feet under water.2 The khalasis were pressed into the operation at the instance of the chief minister of Kerala, E K Nayanar and the Kerala public works department minister, T K Hamza, There was much scepticism about what these village folk with a wooden winch, some iron pulleys and iron ropes could achieve where experts of contemporary engineering had failed. But by July 16, two days after they had been brought in one bogey had been brought close to the shore. In fact but for the Railways 'assistance' this would have happened at least a day earlier. On the very first day itself the bogey had been pulled about five metres towards the shore. In their enthusiasm to assist them the Railways tried to lift the bogey from that position using their crane. But the iron rope tied to the bogey broke and with the result the bogey fell back to the former position, demanding more work from the khalasis. The second bogey was pulled to the shore in a single day by the khalasis working from 8 am to 10 pm with a short break at noon. The distance covered was 40 metres at a point where the lake was about 18 feet deep. A bogey weights about 45 tonnes and with water it would weigh about 50 tonnes. After salvaging these two bogies the khalasis co-operated with the army by tying iron ropes on the bogies under water. Two more bogies were brought ashore thus.

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