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Cops hit road in neglect hunt

Calcutta Police on Sunday took the first steps to pin down the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) for an “entirely avoidable” tragedy four days ago that claimed the life of one of its sub-inspectors.

The fatal squad of the traffic department initiated a case of negligence over the death of Arun Majumder after a pothole tripped his motorcycle on CIT Road late on Wednesday, but the probe was “directionless”, claimed officers, as the FIR did not level any specific charges against any specific agency. That gap would be plugged, they said, by the probe initiated by the criminal intelligence wing (of which Majumder was a part).

Unlike the more general case initiated by the traffic wing, the probe that hit CIT Road on Sunday has been given a deadline and an aim. “The probe will be wound up within three days and we are framing the case in a way that will enable us to press specific charges against a specific agency (read: CMC),” said a senior Calcutta Police officer.

A team of officers visited the spot where Majumder had hit a pothole and was thrown off his two-wheeler, while returning from work to his Baranagar residence. The team went about reconstructing the mishap and quizzing witnesses, mostly local youths.

Those in the Beniapukur police station patrol car, which had taken the injured Majumder to Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital, were also asked about the condition of the road prior to the patchwork carried out by the CMC the day after the tragedy. All witness accounts pointed to the fact that the killer pothole — close to the boulevard — had been in place for several weeks, but the CMC had been blind to it till tragedy struck.

The CMC, on its part, is scouring the streets to spot and plug the potholes. Officials said work would be taken up on a “priority basis”. A two-km stretch of the two-lane CIT Road is already being widened and repaired. A sum of Rs 1 crore has been earmarked for the purpose, said civic officials.

On a parallel track, the CMC is engaged in a blame-game with the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC), responsible for significant stretches of the city’s road space. “We maintain nearly 1,500 km of roads in Calcutta,” said mayor-in-council member (roads) Anup Chatterjee. “We need Rs 300 crore to carry out a proper job, instead of the Rs 30 crore we are allotted for the purpose,” he added.

Then, Chatterjee rattled off the most potholed of paths in town: Mahatma Gandhi Road, Rabindra Sarani, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Elliot Road, Bidhan Sarani. All, of course, have tram tracks running on them. “People have to realise that we cannot afford concrete roads all over the city,” Chatterjee added, disclosing that the CMC, over the past 15 years, had added only about 20 km of roads because of the funds-crunch.

The CTC, meanwhile, said it needs Rs 42 crore to replace or mend the worst of tracks. “But we get only Rs 2.5 crore every year for repairs,” said general manager Shankar Pal.

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