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Peak-time snatchers on ‘safe stretches’

Calcutta, March 29: A schoolteacher returning home in a private bus this morning was robbed of her gold chain by a co-commuter who jumped off the moving vehicle near Bridge No. 4 at Park Circus and fled.

One of the two conductors and a Class X student who was in the bus chased the man, but the young snatcher wearing a pink striped shirt and black trousers jumped over bonnets of stationary cars and scaled the pavement guardrails to sprint into Rifle Range Road.

The two returned empty-handed but accompanied the woman to a police kiosk and later to Karaya police station to give a vivid description of the youth. He was yet to be arrested till late this evening.

Banasri Mondal Adhikari, 35, a primary-section teacher at Kailash Chandra Hindu Girls’ High School in Entally, was returning to her Tiljala home when the incident took place at Lohapool, around 1.5km from her home. She was on a route 39 bus.

The snatching is another instance of an attack on a woman at a place where she least expects it. The snatching took place around 11am in a bus that was not crowded but had several passengers.

Between November and today, at least five instances of snatching have taken place on “safe stretches” in Calcutta, in the morning peak hours, afternoon and evening. Women were the targets on all five occasions. (See chart)

The police have cracked only one case. The frequency of the attacks suggests that some basic policing requirements are not being met, veteran officers said.

“It is important for the police to act promptly. A quick crackdown is possible only with precise intelligence that comes with a well-maintained source network at the grassroots. That is probably missing,” said a retired officer who spent many years in the detective department at Lalbazar.

An officer at Karaya police station said: “We have started an investigation and, on the basis of the accounts of the woman and eyewitnesses, we have detained a few persons from the locality.”

Banasri said she was sitting on the last seat in front of the rear door. She had seen the youth in the pink striped shirt board the bus through the front door near Bridge No. 4 and walk past her. He stood on the footboard of the rear door.

“The bus slowed down near Lohapool as it was approaching a couple of speed-breakers when I felt a tug at my neck. I screamed and got up to catch the youth but he jumped off the bus and started running in the opposite direction,” said Banasri, who suffered scratches on her neck.

She got off the bus and gave chase. The Class X student and the rear-gate conductor also ran after the snatcher.

“I had moved away from the door when the incident happened. The moment I heard the lady scream, I told the driver to stop the bus and joined the chase,” said the conductor, Bhola Purkayet.