Calcutta, May 15: Law-keepers are refusing to learn their lessons.
Declined a Rs 5 bribe, an angry constable smashed the windscreen of a truck, only to land in hospital when the flustered driver tried to escape and knocked him down. The driver was arrested for rash driving.
The incident could have turned far uglier as in 2001, when a matador van fleeing cops chasing it for bribe crushed four devotees at a roadside shrine. Only this time — call it poetic justice — the price was paid by the errant policeman.
Harimohan Das, a traffic constable of the Shyambazar traffic guard, was deployed near Bibibazar on B.T. Road in Cossipore to ensure smooth vehicular movement on the busy stretch leading to Tala bridge. Around 1.30 pm, he saw a truck (CG 04 ZC 1338) heading towards Shyambazar and stopped it in the middle of the road.
He demanded Rs 5 from the driver, identified as Narayan Pradhan. “But the trucker refused to pay the bribe as he was ready to show the valid documents and other papers,” said an official of the Shyambazar traffic guard.
But Das was not interested. He wanted Rs 5. “By then, there was a traffic snarl on the road as the truck was blocking the thoroughfare,” said the official. “Das became furious, when the driver repeatedly refused him.”
Das slammed his lathi on the truck’s windscreen, smashing it. “He even broke the rear-view mirror. As a result, Pradhan received injuries when pieces of glass pierced parts of his hands,” the official said.
Sensing trouble, Pradhan stepped on the accelerator and swerved to the left to escape. Das was knocked down and received serious injuries on his legs. He was rushed to R.G. Kar hospital.
But the driver was trapped with his truck in a traffic snarl. He jumped off his seat and found himself surrounded by people alerted by the cries of the injured Das. Soon policemen deployed at the nearby intersections arrived. They arrested the driver and took him to Cossipore police station where he was booked for rash driving.
Peeyush Pandey, deputy commissioner of police (traffic), had a different version. He said Das intercepted Pradhan as he had entered a no-entry zone. “He (Pradhan) was booked for violating traffic rules.” His version rang hollow as similar tales of routine extortion by traffic policemen are common in Calcutta.
In January, traffic sergeant Sumit Ghosh was suspended for taking money at the Taratala crossing from a bus carrying Gangasagar pilgrims. Ghosh demanded Rs 1,000 from the driver of the Madhya Pradesh bus for violating traffic rules. The driver, unsure about the rules in Calcutta, coughed up the money.
He was intercepted again on Diamond Harbour Road and asked to produce valid papers. The driver pleaded that he had paid up earlier. The officers took him to Taratala crossing and identified Ghosh, before pressing charges against him.
In June last year, sergeant Pijush Chakraborty snatched a businessman’s gold chain at the Shyambazar five-point crossing when he refused to pay the Rs 2,000 he demanded as fine for driving under the influence of alcohol. Chakraborty told him to meet him in front of an eatery on Park Street and collect the chain after paying the money.
The businessman informed police and Chakraborty was caught red-handed in a trap laid by the detective department.