Four-year-old Adrika practises walking at her Baranagar home, supported by mother Sarmistha, in the hope that she will be able to go pandal-hopping during Puja.
Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Adrika Ghoshal was barely a year old when she learnt to walk. At four, she’s learning to walk all over again and struggling for no fault of hers.
“She stands up, keels over and starts crying. I try to make her walk by holding her shoulders but she can’t because of the pain. I have to make her lie down,” mother Sarmistha told Metro on Monday, two months after Adrika fell off a speeding autorickshaw that wouldn’t stop despite the little girl being dragged along.
Sanjay Das, the auto driver responsible for Adrika’s plight, is back on the road but there’s little chance she will be back on her feet soon enough to go pandal-hopping this Puja.
“She keeps asking me: ‘Ma, will I be able to go out during Puja?’ She insists I bring out her new clothes from the wardrobe so that she can pick what to wear on each day. I don’t know what to tell her,” homemaker Sarmistha, 29, said at their Baranagar home.
Adrika, a Lower KG student at Cossipore English Medium School in north Calcutta, was headed home with her mother on August 16 in Sanjay’s auto when a sharp turn taken at speed on a stretch of uneven road threw her off Sarmistha’s lap. Mother and daughter screamed for help but the driver wouldn’t stop.
Adrika, her hands clasping her mother’s, was dragged along for around 30 metres before the auto stopped. By then, the four-year-old had suffered multiple leg fractures and bruises that doctors said would keep her bedridden for at least a couple of months.
“She still wakes up in the middle of the night and starts crying. Sometimes she screams in her sleep: ‘Ma, aamay bachao (mother, save me)’,” Sarmistha said.
Adrika’s doctor said the mental scars were causing her more pain than the physical injuries. “The girl is still in trauma. Her fractures have healed but the shock and the pain she has been through are preventing her from walking properly. It should take her a few more weeks to regain the strength and confidence to walk normally,” orthopaedic surgeon Sudipto Bandopadhyay said.
Driver Sanjay’s seized licence is still with Lalbazar but he has resumed ferrying passengers on the Sinthee-Kuthighat route. Adrika’s father Anit, a manager with electronics company Panasonic, feels “cheated and defeated” whenever he sees the 24-year-old driver weaving his way through traffic while his daughter struggles to walk.
“We do not have any personal rivalry with the driver. We lodged a police complaint despite threats from several auto drivers because we needed to protest against how the auto drivers operate. To see the driver back in business as if nothing has happened is distressing,” he said.
A group of men claiming to be from the Trinamul auto union had threatened Anit after he went to the cops. Not only that, the police sat on the complaint for three days.
It was only on August 20, a day after The Telegraph highlighted Adrika’s plight, that Sanjay was arrested. He walked free on bail 24 hours later, thanks to what police officers admitted were “weak” charges for an act bordering on attempt to culpable homicide.
The revocation of Sanjay’s licence for three months officially makes him ineligible to drive till November 20. He denies being back on the road but admits he is looking forward to “drive and earn during the Puja days”.
“My five-day training with the police and the driving test are over. I have incurred huge losses by not being on the road for two months,” Sanjay said.
A colleague defended Sanjay driving without a licence.“He has to earn a living. He is ferrying passengers in the evening on some days.”
The charge of rash driving against Sanjay is still pending in court. Under normal circumstances, the trial should begin early next year. “If a prosecuted driver drives without a licence, he can be arrested and his vehicle seized under the Motor Vehicles Act,” a senior traffic police officer said.
So why is an exception being made in Sanjay’s case? “We do not know if he has resumed driving yet. In any case, the better part of that auto route is outside our jurisdiction. It is under the Barrackpore commissionerate,” said the officer, attached to the Shyambazar Traffic Guard.
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