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Road & lorry kill schoolgirl

A schoolgirl cycling back home on Monday afternoon came under a speeding lorry after failing to make way for the vehicle because of construction material carelessly dumped by the roadside, a common sight across the city.

Kashmira Khatun, 15, died on a 12ft wide Madhyamgram road whose usable width has been reduced to around 9ft. The Class IX girl ran into the heap of bricks and stone chips in trying to avoid being run over by the lorry that was right behind her.

Police quoted witnesses as saying that she was crushed under the wheels of the lorry after being flung off her seat near a bend on the Madhyamgram-Badu road, around 7km from the airport. A mob gathered within minutes of the accident to torch the two-storey building in front of which the construction material had been dumped.

The police said it could not be immediately confirmed whether the construction material dumped at Kanchantala, midway through the Badu road, was for the house that was attacked.

Badu is the eastern hub of the National Security Guard, the elite security force whose commandos need to take this very road to reach the airport in the event of an emergency.

“A narrow road has been made narrower still by such indiscriminate dumping of construction material. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists take this road at the risk of fatal accidents every day,” a resident of the area said.

The accident site is under the jurisdiction of Barasat Municipality.

A senior engineer of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation said there was no hard and fast rule on stacking construction material by the roadside. “The only stipulation is that material should not be stacked by the side of a thoroughfare in such a way that the width of the carriageway is reduced,” he said.

Kashmira, a student of Kusum Kumari Balika Vidyalaya, apparently did not get any space to move out of the way of the lorry. The driver sped away after the accident but police impounded the lorry at Sashan, about 4km ahead of Kanchantala, and arrested him.

Residents blocked the road from 4pm till 6pm and pelted police vehicles with stones. Many blamed the combination of allegedly poor policing and reckless driving on a narrow, encroached road for the accident.

“Reckless driving is common and the road is narrow at several points because of encroachment, illegal parking or construction material. But the police never bother about these things,” a resident said.

Teams from three police stations — Sashan, Barasat, Madhyamgram — were deployed to disperse the mob. The RAF was called, too.

Metro has highlighted how the narrow road to Badu and the snarl-prone and often cratered Jessore Road pose a challenge to the NSG, which is required to despatch its commandos to any outstation location by air within the shortest possible time to tackle any emergency.