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VIP convoy runs over woman

Guwahati, Dec. 7: A convoy of Assam PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita at VIP fatally hit a 45-year-old daily wager here this evening and sped away, sparking anger in the area over the apparent indifference towards the common man.

The deceased, Khatbanu Begum, was hit by a vehicle in the Chowk at Azara on National Highway 37 in Kamrup (metro) district at 5.10 this evening.

Khatbanu, who washed utensils at a roadside eatery, succumbed to her injuries at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital around 7.20pm.

Eyewitness said the convoy did not even halt to help the woman and police allowed free passage to the vehicle and the convoy.

“It was Bhubaneswar Kalita’s motorcade coming soon after the chief minister’s convoy,” said Praneswar Deka, a constable at Azara police station. The Bolero car (AS01AM9950) has been seized.

The police said Khatbanu was trying to cross the road when the pilot car of the VIP convoy hit her. The people organised a vehicle within minutes and immediately rushed her to the public health centre at Azara, 2km from the accident site, in a critical condition. The PHC immediately referred her to the GMCH.

The ambulance carrying Khatbanu to GMCH from the Azara PHC had to take a detour through Beltola because of traffic snarls, said the victim’s son Tara Ali, 30, thus losing precious time, something that could have been avoided if Kalita’s convoy had picked up the victim and taken her to hospital, thanks to the siren-screeching free-passage VIP vehicles enjoy in Assam.

Khatbanu was given oxygen at the emergency and trauma centre of the GMCH, as she had difficulty breathing. Doctors said she succumbed to her injuries while they were still examining her.

“She might have died due to severe head injuries and internal bleeding,” a doctor at the emergency ward told The Telegraph.

“I am a rickshawpuller. I have a younger brother and sister. My father is too ill to work. When the accident took place, I was near the site. Someone told me that a car had hit my mother. I ran and saw her lying in a pool of blood. The local people helped me get her into a vehicle. Ma managed to talk to me for a while inside the ambulance. I thought she would be fine once we reached GMCH,” Tara said, crying inconsolably at the GMCH.

The police said the pilot car had been seized and the driver picked up for questioning. “We will go by the law to take action in the case. Kalita has himself volunteered to send the vehicle and the driver to Azara police station,” a policeman said.

Kalita told The Telegraph that he was gathering information about the mishap, as he wasn’t aware of it.

Till 9.30pm, Kalita’s car had not been sent to Azara police station. It was at the police reserve in Guwahati. The driver who was brought to Azara police station was identified as Manoj Das.

Eyewitnesses said two motorcades — chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s and Kalita’s — passed through the road within a gap of two minutes. The second motorcade, Kalita’s, was led by a pilot car, a Bolero.

The two convoys were ferrying the chief minister and Kalita from the airport to the city. VIP Chowk is about 25km from GMCH.

It was in those two minutes that Khatbanu had attempted to cross the road, utensils in hand, when the pilot car in Kalita’s convoy hit her, said Asharani Deka, one of the first to witness the accident.

Asharani runs a fruit stall with her husband adjacent to the eatery where Khatbanu used to wash utensils.

Khatbanu had struggled to pull her family through, her son said. “She earned Rs 100 per day,” he said. A road traffic accident case has been registered.

The post-mortem has been slated for tomorrow. For the night, says the GMCH admission slip, Khatbanu’s address is box number 9 in the hospital’s mortuary.

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