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Bribe whiff in rule flout

- A day after tragedy, builders allege ‘monthly fee’ ensures free movement of trucks on Bypass

Trucks flout with impunity the 8am-10pm restriction on a stretch of the Bypass in south Calcutta and police allegedly play ally.

The loaded lorry that killed 10-year-old Siddharth Soni around 9.15am on Sunday in Madurdaha along the Bypass points to an alleged trucker-promoter-police nexus which allows goods-laden vehicles to ply beyond restricted timings, park anywhere at will and jump traffic signals without fear.

Siddharth was bicycling home from a local grocery shop when the truck hit him from behind.

He suffered multiple internal injuries and died three hours later at a private hospital.

The incident happened outside Deeshari Estate, a residential complex comprising 26 four-storey buildings, where the boy lived with his parents and brother.

His body was handed over to the family on Monday morning after autopsy at Katapukur morgue.

“My brother was an excellent athlete and played the guitar too. He was in the school football team. His death has shattered our family,” said brother Saransh, 15.

Residents of the complex gheraoed Anandapur police station after the accident, demanding action for the rampant rule flout by trucks. The officers pacified the crowd with a promise to book any errant truck on the Bypass.

Some of the residents remained sceptical despite extracting the crackdown pledge. They said greasy palms could never hold the whip, let alone crack it.

They were not off the mark because Metro found on Monday afternoon uncontrolled movement of heavy vehicles on the Bypass and the bylanes branching out of it.

A promoter boasted that a monthly fee (read bribe) to the local traffic guard allows him to bend the no-entry rule for trucks between 8am and 10pm. The area is at the centre of a real estate boom that requires an uninterrupted supply of building material throughout the day.

“The truck owner pays the local traffic guard and gives the registration number of the truck. In return, a sergeant of the traffic guard hands him his cell phone number with the assurance that the truck won’t be stopped in the area even during the restricted hours. If a constable or some other sergeant stops the vehicle, we call our truck owner and he contacts the sergeant he had paid. The vehicle number is verified and the truck is allowed to go,” alleged Sudip Yadav, a truck driver carrying bricks to a construction site in Madurdaha on Monday morning.

According to police sources, the sight of men in uniform pocketing a crumpled note from a passing truck during checks is common but bigger transactions happen away from the public eye. “For unhindered movement across the city, a monthly payment has to be made to every traffic guard on the route that the truck would take. We pay too so that building material from the Sonarpur and Baruipur areas could be brought even during daytime,” said a promoter currently working on two projects in Madurdaha.

Deputy commissioner (traffic) Dilip Adak said: “I am not aware of any nexus between truck owners, promoters and policemen. But I will look into the allegation at the earliest. And if there is a specific complaint, I will take appropriate action.”

Special permission to enter the city during restricted hours can be obtained from the office of the deputy commissioner, traffic department. “If sanctioned, a written letter is issued from Lalbazar. The driver needs to carry the letter that acts as a pass,” said a senior officer.

Entering the city without the special pass during restricted hours attracts a penalty of Rs 2,000 (Section 115 of the Motor Vehicles Act).

Metro saw five trucks of varying sizes between 2.30pm and 3pm on Monday at the site where Siddharth was crushed to death. It could not be ascertained how many of them were carrying the special permission but the suspicion of a monthly payment stemmed from the way on-duty policemen ignored their presence.

“We do not have the power to stop or book any offending vehicle. We just write down their numbers,” said a home guard manning a signal at the Kalikapur crossing.

He was not jotting down the registration numbers of any of the five trucks that passed by.