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Extortion axe on traffic sergeant

Calcutta, Jan. 17: A Calcutta Police traffic sergeant — asked to ensure safe passage for vehicles at the accident-prone Taratala crossing — was instead found to be extorting money from buses bringing back pilgrims from Ganga Sagar island.

A departmental probe was ordered following a complaint from a bus driver and sergeant Sumit Ghosh found himself suspended a few hours after his offence, senior traffic officials said.

“That the law is going to take its own course must be very evident now from the prompt departmental inquiry and the consequent suspension,” deputy commissioner (traffic) Pijush Pandey said today.

“There is absolutely no question of protecting him if he is found guilty after a more detailed probe,” he added.

Ghosh, a sergeant in the south-west traffic guard, had been allotted duty at the busy Taratala crossing yesterday afternoon. Around 2 pm, he signalled a bus — evidently returning from Ganga Sagar — to stop and asked to see the vehicle’s papers.

The driver, Bhagat Ram (name changed), produced some papers, but did not have the whole set. Ghosh told him he would have to fork out Rs 1,000 if he wanted to keep out of jail.

Ram, unsure about the ways of Calcutta (his bus had come here from Madhya Pradesh), did not want matters to get out of hand and coughed up the money to buy his peace with Ghosh. He was let off, and asked to be more careful from then on.

Ram had barely advanced a block or so along Diamond Harbour Road when he was stopped by another set of traffic officials and asked to produce his papers.

An exasperated Ram lost his cool and shouted out that he would not pay another rupee. “I paid a small fortune just at the previous crossing. How many times should I pay for this minor mistake'” he asked.

The officers — who were obviously not after his money — asked him to explain. On learning of what had occurred at the Taratala crossing, they asked Ram to accompany them there. The driver emerged from his cabin, jumped into a police vehicle and took the officials to the spot.

By then, officials said, Ghosh had stopped another bus coming from Ganga Sagar. Realising what was afoot, the officials immediately contacted Pandey at his Lalbazar office.

An angry Pandey directed his subordinates to ensure Ram registered a complaint and did not leave Calcutta with a poor image of the city police.

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