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Shake-up after crash near CM home

Calcutta, Aug. 10: A private bus crashed into a police picket about 500 metres from Mamata Banerjee’s Kalighat home today, prompting her to instruct police and the transport department to formulate a plan to curb reckless driving.

The police blamed faulty brakes for the accident, which injured eight cops.

“Human life is precious. We have repeatedly said that speed limits should not be violated. People should not drive like that,” the chief minister said after visiting the injured at SSKM Hospital.

“I am against this (rash driving) but these people often take advantage of loopholes in the laws to go scot-free. I have repeatedly told the police and the transport department to chalk out a plan to curb such problems.”

Following her tough words, transport minister Madan Mitra swung into action and ordered the owner of the bus to come to Writers’ on Monday to check the licence and permits.

Transport department officials said they could not remember the last time a minister had summoned a bus owner after an accident. Police officers said they were formulating a “long-term plan” against rash driving.

The police said the driver of the Route 37 bus, Arjun Rai, had detected the brake failure at Kidderpore and asked the passengers to get off. After temporary repairs, Rai decided to take the bus to the Dhakuria terminus. The accident took place on the way.

Rai and conductors Gopal Naskar and Biswanath Ghosh have been arrested and booked for rash and negligent driving, which carries a maximum punishment of six months in jail.

The accident happened at the Hazra end of the Kalighat bridge near Harish Chatterjee Street, where the chief minister lives, around 11am. The bus hit the guardrails and crashed into the police picket — a temporary structure with a tarpaulin sheet tied to bamboo sticks.

The injured cops were shifted to the CMRI from SSKM later in the day. One of them, Rabin Oraon, 31, said: “I heard screams and then noticed the bus speeding towards us.”

Another injured cop, Ashutosh Mahato, said he was sitting in a plastic chair when he saw the bus approaching.

“It swerved and hit the guardrails. The driver seemed to have lost control. I was flung off my chair,” he said.

Conductor Naskar has told the police the bus was being driven to the Dhakuria terminus despite the faulty brakes because there was no place to park it on the busy city roads, an officer at Kalighat police station said.

A traffic department official said: “It is difficult to prevent an accident if a vehicle develops a snag. But overtaking and rash driving can be prevented through effective policing. We will chalk out a plan to prevent rash driving.”

The police are likely to try and ensure proper use of bus bays and swift prosecution of traffic violators. Transport department officials said they would take firm steps against erring bus drivers so that a “message is sent out loud and clear”.

“We have asked the bus owner to come to Writers’ on Monday and show all the relevant documents,” transport minister Mitra said. “We’ll ask him to submit the bus permit and sack the driver.”

Department sources said that hours after Mamata’s outburst, senior officials were told to work out a policy under which bus drivers would be paid a salary, not a commission. Such a decision had been taken during Left rule but nothing has been done so far.

“We’ll get cracking on this issue. I will not give any deadline but we will carry out the order,” Mitra said.