Rash driving, speeding, overtaking, running the red light and stopping in the middle of roads to let passengers board or alight: the bus bullies of Calcutta violate every possible traffic rule with impunity.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday directed police and the traffic department to launch a crackdown on buses flouting road rules after a private bus crashed into a police picket near her Kalighat home, injuring eight officers. Following her order, transport minister Madan Mitra claimed to have initiated “tough action”.
On Monday, Metro hit the streets but found that nothing has changed.
Judges Court Road (Alipore-Hazra crossing)
2.10pm: A Hazra-bound minibus came hurtling down, dangerously changing lanes against Hastings-bound traffic, and stopped after overshooting the “stop” mark at the traffic light towards the Harish Chatterjee Street-end of Kalighat bridge. This was the same spot where the accident occurred last Saturday. Another bus (route 18C) also crossed the stop line, though the red light was on.
What the cops did: There were at least 15 officers in the police kiosk at the crossing, about 300m from the chief minister’s home. None moved, nor did anyone note down the registration numbers of the two buses. “It’s a narrow road. If we start booking all the (offending) buses, it can create a huge snarl and compromise security in front of the CM’s house,” an officer said.
Park Circus No. 4 bridge crossing
1.10am: Buses coming from Darga Road stopped after the “stop” line and drove towards Karaya and Tiljala even before the light turned green. Two cops posted there moved aside to let the buses pass. Passengers were allowed to board and alight even when the buses were moving. Buses raced each other on the bridge and often crossed the central divider on Darga Road, veering into the lane meant for traffic from the opposite direction.
What the cops did: Two home guards and a civic volunteer tried to maintain order but the bus drivers paid no attention. “If we book a driver at this crossing, the bus unions would go on strike. We have been asked to ignore violations to avoid a conflict,” said an officer.
JL Nehru Road (Exide-Jeevan Deep)
11.10am: Buses seldom take the bus bay on JL Nehru Road and cars were being parked in zones designated for public transport. Most of the buses ply in the middle of the road, often trying to overtake the one in the front at breakneck speed. They stop at will to let passengers get off. A youth in crutches got down from a bus (route 12C/1) on the wrong side near Birla planetarium, bringing him face to face with heavy traffic to reach the footpath on the way to his Shakespeare Sarani office. “I tell the conductors to stop at bus stands, but they never listen. So I have to undergo this ordeal everyday,” said Rana Ghosh, a software engineer.
What the cops did: A sergeant got on to his motorbike when he saw Metro photograph the violations. He shooed away two cars from the bus bay, but did not book them.
Old Court House Street and Esplanade East
10.30am: Guardrails clearly mark out the bus bay in front of Great Eastern Hotel, but buses plying from the Dalhousie-end ignore them. Cars get into the bay to turn left towards Waterloo Street and Esplanade East Road. Buses race on both flanks to reach the depots at Esplanade and BBD Bag. A bus (route 12C/1A) ran a red light and barely avoided colliding with a tram as it sped towards RR Avenue. On Esplanade East Road, buses were parked on the left side of the road, a no parking zone.
What the cops did: Sergeants remained static on their motorbikes at the Esplanade East Road-JL Nehru crossing and the intersection in front of Raj Bhavan. “We book whenever they flout rules. It is not possible to nab every offending vehicle,” a sergeant said.
BT Road (Sinthee crossing)
11.30am: Speeding buses stop at will — anywhere on the road — to pick up passengers. “Every day we have to board or get down from buses in the middle of the road. It’s scary,” said Asok Mukherjee, a 55-year-old resident of Dunlop. Overtaking near the Sinthee crossing has been rampant among buses heading towards Shyambazar and Dunlop. Most buses violate pollution norms as well.
What the cops did: Two traffic sergeants on duty ignored the violations.
2.30pm: The road between Esplanade and Moulali has been an accident-prone zone because of heavy traffic — cars, buses and autorickshaws plying along tram tracks. Buses don’t stop at designated places and passengers get off wherever the vehicle slows down. They often risk getting run over by other vehicles on this congested road. Metro spotted four-five buses racing each other at the Chandni Chowk crossing.
What cops did: “This keeps happening all the time. How can we stop all of a sudden?” a sergeant said.