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Auto overturns with 12, one dies

A teacher was killed and 12 persons, including nine school students and two teachers, were injured when an auto-rickshaw carrying them overturned at Dighir Paar on Diamond Harbour Road near Mohanpur on the southern fringe of the city on Wednesday evening.

The students of classes V to X at Diamond Harbour High Madrasah and their teachers were returning from a sports meet at Muchisa in Maheshtala when the accident occurred near Diamond Harbour, around 50km from Calcutta.

The driver of the auto, which was modified to increase its seating capacity from three to 13, had tried to skirt a two-wheeler coming from the opposite direction when he lost control.

Anwar Hossain, 50, seated to the right of the driver, sustained severe head injuries and died on the spot.

The students, three of them girls, were admitted to Diamond Harbour Sub-divisional Hospital. The driver, too, received injuries and was admitted to hospital. The teachers were released after first aid.

The police have seized the vehicle — one of the 300-odd illegal autos that run on kata-tel, an adulterated version of petrol that most two-stroke auto-rickshaws use as fuel.

The modified autos have three rows of seats behind the driver apart from four passengers next to the driver. Transport officials said an auto-rickshaw can carry only three passengers — the carrying capacity as defined in the blue book of a three-wheeler.

“This is one of the several hundred illegal auto-rickshaws that ply in and around Diamond Harbour,” said Dipak Halder, the Trinamul MLA from Diamond Harbour. “We have been demanding a crackdown and even the transport department has been trying to replace these with LPG autos.”

Senior Trinamul leaders of the area admitted that these autos were a lifeline for commuters, given the scarcity of buses. “There are not enough buses in this area. Commuters are forced to ride these autos risking their lives,” said a senior Trinamul leader of Diamond Harbour. “The police have been forced to look the other way as hundreds would remain stranded otherwise.”

A senior police officer of South 24-Parganas said raids were conducted on illegal autos. “However, commuters are forced to ride these illegal autos because of lack of transport,” he said.