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Schoolboy dies in illegal but inescapable pool van

Calcutta, July 19: A Class III student of South Point School was killed this morning when an illegal pool van lost control at high speed and crashed into a stationary bus on the accident-prone VIP Road.

The morning tragedy brought to the fore the helplessness of parents in a city with unreliable public transport that forces them to rely on pool cars, though such a system has been outlawed by the Supreme Court.

The nine-year-old student, Kaustav Bhattacharya, was on his way to school in a hired Maruti Omni when the accident occurred around 6.30am on VIP Road in the Golaghata area of Lake Town. Since January, five persons have been killed on VIP Road.

This morning, more lives were at stake — the Maruti Omni had six other children but they escaped with minor injuries.

Police said the driver, Bikas Singh, tried to pull past the bus by swerving right at high speed but misjudged the gap. “The left side of the car where Kaustav was sitting rammed against the bus. The boy, seated beside the driver, suffered a lethal head injury,” an officer said. The driver has been arrested.

Kaustav — who teachers said had scored “very good marks” in the last class test — was bleeding profusely from the forehead when he was pulled out of the mangled car. The six other boys were sitting in the rear.

“When we reached the spot, we found Kaustav in a pool of blood. We rushed him to a local nursing home,” said Ranjit Chakraborty, the officer in charge of Lake Town police station.

By then, the police had found Kaustav’s address on his school identity card and informed his parents who reached the nursing home.

The nursing home authorities suggested transfer to a hospital with better infrastructure. He was taken to a private hospital on EM Bypass where he was declared “brought dead” around 8.30am.

Kaustav, the only son of Kamal, a higher education department employee, and Mousumi lived at Roypara Housing Complex in Dum Dum. Kaustav used to go to school in the pool van.

Kamal found it difficult to speak. “Please do not ask me anything. I can’t recollect anything,” he said.

Kaustav’s mother was inconsolable. “She did not drink a drop of water ever since she heard about Sonu (as Kaustav was called at home),” a relative said.

“We are terribly shocked by the boy’s death,” Madhu Kohli, South Point principal, said.

A Supreme Court order has banned the use of private cars for ferrying students on a commercial basis. Only buses, which are registered under the contract carriage act and are governed by court guidelines, are allowed to do so.

Ashoke Biswas, additional superintendent of police, said such pool services are illegal but the force’s hands are tied. “How can we prosecute when a driver or parent says he is a guardian taking his child and friends to school without charging any fee'” he asked.

The police can take action only if it is proved that the service is being run commercially without licence.

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