The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Passengers suffocate to death on N-E buses

Agartala, Oct. 12: Packed like sardines on inter-state buses, four passengers travelling from Guwahati to Agartala died of suffocation yesterday.

Police detained Swapan Das, the driver of the bus in which three passengers died yesterday in the Kumarghat area of North Tripura.

However, no action has been taken by West Agartala police station against the owner or driver of a bus in which a woman passenger was found dead.

On Wednesday afternoon, an inter-state passenger bus belonging to Puja Travels, based in Guwahati, left for Agartala. The bus has a seating capacity of 35 but was crammed with 73 passengers, mainly brick kiln workers from Jharkhand.

Even though the bus was air-conditioned, many passengers had trouble breathing because of the overcrowding. When the overloaded bus reached Churaibari in North Tripura, some passengers started vomiting but the driver refused to stop.

By the time the vehicle reached Kumarghat, at least 12 passengers had fallen seriously sick. They were shifted to Kumarghat hospital where three of them, Sato Maheli (19), Suraj Bekhora (18) and Ramprasad Bhagwat (18), all residents of Thanpur district in Jharkhand, were pronounced dead.

In the other incident, a woman passenger died of suffocation. Srima Debi (25) had left Guwahati for Agartala along with her son and husband on a bus belonging to Agartala-based Sherowali Travels on Wednesday. As soon as the bus entered the hilly region within Tripura on the Assam-Agartala National Highway, Srima Debi said she felt uneasy but the driver refused to stop the bus. She was declared dead after being taken to the IGM Hospital when the bus reached Agartala at 7pm. All four bodies have been sent for post-mortem.

Transport minister Manik Dey expressed shock and said he would look into the matter.

Officer in charge of West Agartala police station Subrata Chakraborty said, “The matter is being investigated and we will take action only after receiving the post-mortem report. We have also asked the proprietors of Sherwali Travels to produce the driver of the bus in which the woman died, otherwise we will have a warrant issued against them.”

The owners of Sherwali Travels were not available for comment. Staff manning the Puja Travels counter at Paltan Bazar in Guwahati said tonight they were not aware of the deaths but admitted that the bus was a “little overcrowded.”

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