Residents of a south Calcutta pocket where an elderly man was run over by an autorickshaw last week have set an ultimatum for the three-wheelers on their route: follow rules or face public rage.
The threat of “direct action” from residents of Ramgarh, near Garia, suggests that people’s patience is wearing thin at a time the government seems reluctant to keep its promise to act against rogue autos.
“You (auto operators) don’t realise the extent of people’s frustration in regard to your behaviour. Sutorang sathik bhabey aainer sashon meney cholun, manush jeno badhyo na hoy rastai namtey (Therefore, abide by the laws so that people are not forced to hit the streets),” reads a resolution signed by the 700-odd residents of the locality, united under the banner Ramgarh Nagarik Parishad.
The resolution was taken at a first-of-its-kind convention at Ramgarh Mukul Bose High School, also attended by around 35 auto drivers and some Trinamul trade union leaders, on Sunday afternoon.
A speeding auto on the Garia-Gariahat route had rammed into 69-year-old Ashutosh Sengupta who was crossing the road with a bag containing groceries around 6.30pm on January 22.
The auto sped into a narrow lane while the retired engineer lay unconscious in a pool of blood on the road. A probe revealed that the driver of the auto, Anjan Rai, did not have a driving licence.
Insiders said most of the 1,000-odd autos on the Garia-Gariahat route don’t have a route permit or a driving licence or a fitness certificate, all mandatory documents.
During office hours most drivers violate traffic rules, speeding past one another and jumping signals. The lone traffic cop at the busy Ramgarh intersection, residents said, has no option but to turn a blind eye to the rampant violation.
Passengers are at times made to get off midway, alleged residents. Worse, they said, operators sometimes refused to ferry people on the route because they want to ply on a more lucrative route during that time of the day.
“At times, the route is broken. Some autos will ply between Garia and Golpark and some between Golpark and Gariahat. If one travels the entire distance at a stretch, the fare will be less than what we are forced to pay for the break journey,” said Ramgarh resident Bivu Nandy.
At the convention, the Ramgarh residents told auto operators to follow traffic rules, to behave properly with passengers and not to ferry more than four persons at a time.
The residents demanded that only operators with proper documents be allowed to ply on the route and passengers not be forced to get off midway.
The residents also want the autos to pick and drop passengers only at designated stops.
Ashutosh Sengupta’s brother Chinmoy attended the convention. “After my brother’s death I wanted to ensure that similar tragedies don’t hit other families,” Chinmoy told Metro. “The convention was meant to send a message that the unity of autos is not above that of the passengers. If we decide to resist, things are bound to change. This is just the beginning.”
Trinamul trade union leaders in charge of the route turned up at the convention. Meghnad Poddar, the South Calcutta district president of the INTTUC, and route secretary Debraj Ghosh heard the residents’ grievances.
Poddar said the drivers have been told in front of the residents to abide by rules.
Gobinda Ram and Jitu Ram of Rabindra Sarani, Burrabazar, were arrested on Monday for molesting a girl on Sunday. They had picked her from Sonagachi in an auto with the promise of giving her a blanket.