A pothole took a 54-year-old woman’s life on Monday morning, flinging her off a cycle rickshaw on to the path of a truck hurtling down the road in front of the Dakshineswar temple.
A pool of blood marked out the killer pothole on the narrow, pockmarked road where homemaker Shibani Dhar was thrown off the rickshaw and run over by the Dunlop-bound truck trailing it.
Shibani was headed for a nearby clinic around 10am when the accident occurred barely 50 metres from the main entrance of the temple complex that thousands visit every day.
“We have impounded the truck and are looking for the truck driver, who fled after the accident,” said Debasish Bej, deputy commissioner of the detective department in the Barrackpore commissionerate.
But an officer at Baranagar police station said the driver was “apparently” not at fault. “We spoke to witnesses and all of them said the accident was not caused by negligent driving. The rickshaw turned sideways after one of its rear wheels fell into the rainwater-filled pothole. This was a tragedy triggered by a very bad road.”
A crowd of protesters blocked TN Biswas Road for two hours, demanding immediate repairs. Some residents later filled the larger potholes with sand, but left the one that caused Shibani’s death untouched.
“We want the councillor to see this and realise what we have to endure daily,” said Debasish Choudhury, a relative of the victim who was at a tea stall about 20 metres from the site when the accident happened.
The crumbling bituminous surface of TN Biswas Road, which runs perpendicular to the shrine’s main entrance, is used by trucks as well as cars exiting the temple complex to reach Belghoria Expressway or BT Road.
“Several requests to the CPM-controlled Kamarhati Municipality to repair the road have fallen on deaf ears,” a resident said.
Shibani, who was declared dead at Baranagar State General Hospital, lived in a two-room house not far from the accident site. Her husband Shambhu Dhar is a retired railway employee and son Bappa owns a shop near the temple complex.
A Metro report published on Monday had highlighted the condition of several thoroughfares across the city, almost all of them in a state as bad or worse than the road that killed Shibani.
TN Biswas Road’s problem is the fragile bituminous surface littered with stone chips that cause vehicles to skid.
“This is such a busy and congested road and yet nobody in authority bothers to repair it. Accidents are frequent and a fatal one like was waiting to happen,” said Gopinath Shaw, who owns a fast-food restaurant across the road.
Suman Chatterjee, the CPM councillor of Ward 14 under Kamarhati Municipality, blamed a shortage of funds for the road remaining in a poor condition. “The state government is not providing us funds to carry out major repairs,” he said.
As in other parts of the city, patchwork is done whenever an accident occurs, but a spell of rain is all it takes for the potholes to reappear.
BT Road, which connects the city to Dakshineswar and the PWD Road leading to the temple complex, are cratered at several places. The Dunlop crossing has potholes that have grown larger with each burst of rain. Belghoria Expressway, connecting Dakshineswar to the airport, has also crumbled over the past couple of months.
A middle-aged woman forced to walk down the carriageway because of hawkers and puddles on the broken footpath had been run over by a bus near the Exide crossing last month.