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Speeding highway van kills biker

A 45-year-old NGO worker was killed on the spot when a speeding pick-up van hit the bike he was riding at Sundernagar on Tata-Hata state highway on Monday morning.

The accident spurred a blockade on the highway, with local residents blaming administrative apathy for transformation of the stretch into a mishap magnet.

Sitaramdera resident Keshav Mahto was going to the Potka NGO where he worked at 7am when the van coming from the opposite direction deviated from its course and knocked him down. Despite wearing a helmet, Mahto sustained head wounds and internal chest injuries, and died.

Sundernagar OC K.N. Ojha confirmed that the pick-up van was speeding and the driver lost control on an inclined stretch of the highway, causing the vehicle to veer off path. “We found the blood-stained helmet of the victim under the van,” he added.

After the accident, the driver of the van abandoned the vehicle and fled the scene. When local residents failed to catch him, they staged a blockade and demanded the administration install speed-breakers at strategic points on the highway stretch.

The blockade, enforced at 7.30am, was lifted half-an-hour later when police assured residents that they would try to get speed-breakers in place.

A protester, Mohammed Sirazuddin, said the stretch had seen 15 fatal mishaps since March 2013. “Three of the victims were local residents,” he added.

“When Tata-Hata road was in bad shape, vehicles plied at a moderate speed. Also, there were several speed-breakers. But, after the road was reconstructed and the speed-breakers removed, the kilometre-long stretch gradually turned into a mishap magnet,” said Sirazuddin, who runs a garage nearby.

Agitator Dinesh Gope said the administration was not paying heed to the threat. “There are no speedbreakers and police have not enforced any speed limit,” he pointed out.

OC Ojha, when asked about the speed-breakers, said they were removed following a directive from Jharkhand High Court. He did not comment on speed limits. “The highway has indeed become prone to accidents ever since. Let us see what can be done,” he added.