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Killer bus vanishes, delays kin damages

A poor family lost its sole earning member in a hit-and-run a week ago and still can’t claim compensation because police have yet to catch the “culprit” — an 18-tonne air-conditioned bus probably of a government agency.

“The bus, one of the few that ply on routes in the IT hub, has just vanished into thin air,” said a relative of 25-year-old Pradip Maity, a young biker who was run over at Sector V in Salt Lake.

The bereaved family has been making rounds of Electronic Complex police station almost everyday, only to be told every time that the bus has not been tracked.

Pinaki Roy, the inspector-in-charge of the police station, said the bus could not be traced because nobody has been able to provide its route and registration numbers. “We are trying… the number of the bus is not visible even in the CCTV footage,” the officer added.

A source said it wouldn’t take much effort to track down the bus since only a handful of AC buses ply on that route.

“The police’s failure to identify the bus will deprive the family of compensation from the agency that owns the vehicle,” a senior traffic department officer said.

“The insurance agency of the bus owner will have to pay the compensation decided by the court. The amount can go up to Rs 10 lakh, depending on how much the family of the deceased was dependent on him. But for that to happen the police have to track the vehicle first,” said a former officer of the traffic department.

The next of kin of road accident victims normally gets Rs 8 to Rs 10 lakh as damages — an amount that could save the Maity family bacon.

The family stays in a rented accommodation on College Street and depended solely on the elder son’s income since the father has no job, the mother is a homemaker and the younger brother is unemployed.

The bus crushed Maity, who used to work with a catering company on College Street, after his bike skidded on a heap of sand dumped on the carriageway for a civic beautification project. The spot is right in front of the office of Cognizant Technology Solutions, a few metres from the SDF crossing.

Maity’s colleague Rimpa Mammon, who was riding pillion and suffered a critical injury on her right leg, had said the bus driver sped off after the accident.

Surya Adhikary, owner of the catering unit where Maity worked, said he had tried to help the young man because “he was the sole earning member of the family”. “I run a small business and still tried to do whatever I could.”

Adhikary too has been “visiting and calling up the police station almost every day but never got a positive response”.

He and Maity’s family wanted to know why tracking a bus in Sector V was proving so hard for the police even after the statement from a key witness, Rimpa, had narrowed down the search to an air-conditioned bus run by a government agency.

“There are hardly six bus routes in Sector V on which air-conditioned buses ply. A few calls to the agencies running the buses would have solved the matter,” said an officer of Bidhannagar commissionerate.

Then why has not the commissionerate made the calls? “Since the complaint was lodged with Electronic Complex police station, the investigation has to be done by them,” the officer said.

A few years ago, several CCTV cameras were installed in the tech hub to ensure better policing.

Despite inspector Roy’s claim of unclear CCTV footage, a senior officer of the commissionerate confirmed that there is no camera in front of Cognizant Technology Solutions, the spot where the accident occurred.

“Absence of a CCTV camera in such a vital place is inexplicable. But the bus can still be tracked after referring to footage from other CCTV cameras in the vicinity. There are traffic personnel at every crossing… they could have taken down the number,” said the officer.

The revelation that the area doesn’t have a CCTV camera has raised eyebrows.

“No planning was done it seems before CCTV cameras were installed in Sector V. What if a woman worker from one of the IT or ITEs companies dotting the area gets assaulted? The police won’t be able to do anything because of lack of evidence,” said a young techie with an IT firm in Infinity Building, a shout away from the spot where Maity died.