A young woman was left with a bloody and swollen nose after being slapped twice by an autorickshaw driver at the Taratala crossing on Wednesday morning. Her crime? Giving him a Rs 50 note when the fare was Rs 10.
Pallabi Chatterjee, a 25-year-old resident of Behala, said in her police complaint that the driver abused and assaulted her while she was on the way to office on Budge Budge Trunk Road around 9.50am.
The woman, who works as a telecaller with a car dealership company, also alleged that nobody — even the cops standing nearby — tried to stop the driver as he sped away after the attack.
Based on her complaint, police later arrested 32-year-old auto driver Akhil Jana from the Behala-Rashbehari route. He was charged with voluntarily causing hurt, using criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.
Doctors at Vidyasagar hospital, where the woman went for treatment, advised her a nose X-ray.
Fresh scratch marks on the driver’s face, probably caused by nails, suggested a scuffle between Jana and Pallabi, said an officer of New Alipore police station.
The assault happened a day after the Trinamul trade union, to which most three-wheeler operators have sworn their loyalty, had instructed auto drivers to behave properly with passengers.
“The government will not tolerate any nonsense,” transport minister Madan Mitra had thundered many a time against the misbehaviour of auto drivers. To little avail.
His suggestion in 2012 that all autorickshaws display the police helpline 1073 has found few takers.
The government has been besieged with complaints of “auto-cracy” — such as indiscriminate fare hike, abrupt change of routes, rude behaviour with passengers and rampant violation of traffic rules by auto drivers. Efforts to rein in truant auto drivers, however, have not yielded any result.
Mitra said on Wednesday he would visit the victim and instruct the police to frame strict charges against the offending driver.
Pallabi, nursing an aching nose, narrated her traumatic experience to Metro.
“I boarded the auto at Behala Chowrasta and got down at Taratala to take a bus or a connecting auto to reach office. This is the routine I follow every day.
“Today, I handed a Rs 50 note to the auto driver since I didn’t have change. He insisted that I pay him the exact fare, which is Rs 10. When I told him that I wasn’t carrying change, he started abusing me: ‘Eta ki tomar babar jayga je 50 taka niye esechho (Is this your father’s fiefdom that you are giving me Rs 50?).’
“The other passengers paid and walked away, leaving me at the mercy of an abusive man. When I tried to drive some sense into him, the driver shouted that he wouldn’t return the change.
“Then, all of a sudden, he stepped out of the auto and slapped me twice before driving away. The unprovoked attack left me bleeding profusely from my nose and it took me some time to gather myself to shout for help.
“What followed next was even more shocking. People and policemen standing a few metres from the spot completely ignored me, as if nothing had happened.
“The nosebleed drew the attention of some people at a nearby tea stall. They took me to a CESC office, where I was given first aid and a leucoplast to cover the wound. Then I called my father and colleagues and narrated the horror.
“I was still in the CESC office when a police team arrived. They took me to New Alipore police station where I lodged a complaint.”
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