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Rivalry raises casualty count
BLOOD ON THE ROAD
(January 1 to 22)
Accidents: 45
Deaths: 28
Injured: 26

A septuagenarian lost his life and a teenager lost a limb on Thursday as the killer buses rolled on.

A truck added to the casualty count, with its cleaner being crushed under the vehicle that turned turtle in Burrabazar.

And the month that began with a road safety week hurtled from one road mishap to another, with no respite in sight.

The day began with Abhijit Das, 13, being knocked down by a bus on route 30D rushing to overtake another bus. This was at Dum Dum’s Shyamnagar, and the student of Aditya School, in Barasat, was admitted to a local hospital, with his right leg crippled beyond salvage.

The bus was impounded, but the rogue driver had not been traced till Thursday evening.

Gauranga Samaddar, 72, had just stepped out of home and was heading for a local shop when a minibus on the Prince Anwar Shah Road-Nimtala route knocked him down at the crossing of Rabindra Sarani and Nimtala Ghat Street. Samaddar was pronounced dead at Medical College and Hospital. Yet again, the bus was impounded but the driver managed to flee.

But the rising blood-on-the-streets count this month has failed to make much of an impact on bus operators and drivers. Yes, the mishaps were tragic, all of them agreed, but little can be done to set things right within the present system, they added.

Given the way the public transport system operated — with earnings being directly proportional to the number of passengers — there was no slowing the buses down and, by extension, no curbing the accident toll.

Bengal Bus Syndicate spokesperson Swarnakamal Saha said the problems of the “commission” system were aggravated by the illegal “shuttle service” of auto-rickshaws and taxis.

“These illegally-run vehicles eat into our earnings, making drivers and conductors far more competitive,” he explained.

Joint Council of Bus Syndicates spokesperson Sadhan Das had another excuse to offer for buses in a reckless race.

“Even the public vehicles department is responsible. It now gives permits indiscriminately, resulting in more buses than needed, spurring unhealthy rivalry between vehicles on the same route,” said Das, focusing on one reason why the race to a common depot is now such a common sight.

Public vehicles department director H. Mohan, of course, expressed his helplessness. “We give out permits under instructions from the state transport department,” he said. “The department, before asking us to issue licences, conducts surveys to find out the number of buses that are needed,” added Mohan.

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