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Helpline of little help as cabbie attacks duo

- Rogue driver arrested on day steps are taken to check torment on roads

A taxi driver allegedly assaulted a call centre manager and his friend from Delhi on Sarat Bose Road after refusing to take them to their destination on Sunday night.

More than the humiliation and physical hurt, the friends said they were disappointed with the police response when they called 100 to report the assault. Indraneel Chakraborty, the call centre manager, and Chandan Chatterjee were asked to dial a second helpline, 1073, but the officer attending to the second call advised them to “somehow” get out of the place and lodge a formal complaint against the taxi driver with Bhowanipore police station.

They alleged that the driver, identified as Rohit Kumar Singh and arrested on Monday in the Calcutta port area, got into the cab at 9.50pm near Hindustan Park to return home after dinner with friends in south Calcutta.

“The plan was to drop Chandan at his Golf Green home and then I would head for my Naktala residence. After a few hundred metres, the driver stopped and refused to go to Golf Green. He said the engine would be cut any moment because of a mechanical fault and all he can do is drop us at Gol Park,” Indraneel said on Monday.

But the duo declined to get down, inviting a flurry of invectives from the driver.

Another person, who the victims said was the driver’s helper, was quietly sitting next to him in the front seat.

“As we refused to buzz, the driver got off and dragged Indraneel out of the taxi. He punched him hard. The helper sprung to his feet and joined him in the attack. The driver then made a call and in no time several youths reached the spot. One of them was on a bike. They started raining blows on us,” Chandan said.

Amid the assault, Chandan managed to dial 100 from Indraneel’s cell phone. “The officer listened to my plight and told me to dial 1073 (helpline for taxi refusal). I failed to convince him that as I was talking, there were people assaulting and abusing us… and that we needed immediate help,” he said.

His SOS to 1073 allegedly yielded another shocking response: the officer told them to run for their life and report their ordeal to a police station. “I called 1073 and described our situation to the officer. He told me: ‘Je kore hok, okhan theke beriye jaan. Bepar-ta Bhowanipore thanay report korun (Somehow get out of the place. Report the matter to Bhowanipore police station). I hung up,” he recounted.

Minutes later, the assailants went away and the battered duo managed to catch another taxi. “We were too disappointed with the way the police reacted and were returning home when an officer of Bhowanipore police station called and sought our location. When we said we were returning home, he insisted that we lodge a complaint so that the police could take action,” said Indraneel.

“I called a friend who runs a voluntary organisation and he took us to Bhowanipore police station. The officers there were helpful,” Chandan said.

Officers at Lalbazar, the police HQ, defended their colleagues at the helpline desk, saying they “acted on time”. “The officers manning the 100 helpline did what they are supposed to do. The call came at 9.55pm. The caller’s name and phone number were passed on to Bhowanipore police station at 9.57pm. The police station got in touch with them and advised them to keep moving towards the police station till a police vehicle could reach them. It was on the police station officers’ insistence that they came to the police station to lodge a complaint on Sunday night,” said Rajeev Mishra, the joint commissioner (headquarters) of police.

The police arrested the driver the day after from the taxi number that Chandan, who runs a firm in Delhi, had given them but the helper is still at large.

The nightmare that Indraneel and Chandan had to go through despite calling two police helpline numbers from the site of the attack exposed how ill-prepared officers are in handling distress calls.

In an almost similar situation last year, a Frenchman’s desperate pleas for help while goons were chasing his woman friend and threatening to rape her in Jodhpur Park, were turned down by officers manning the 100 helpline at Lalbazar because the man couldn’t give them the location.