The driver and conductor of the bus that ran over a five-year-old boy, Pankaj Rai, on Tuesday night at Janbazar, in central Calcutta, are missing. After the accident, a mob had beaten up the duo and then set them free, but the police have not been able to trace them till Wednesday night.
On Tuesday, a private bus on route 34B, while overtaking another bus on route 78/2, crushed Pankaj under its wheels. The boy was out with his father, Jaynath, to fetch medicine for his ailing mother.
Jaynath and five others had a narrow escape as they ran across the road. Later, a mob torched three buses and a government jeep and damaged five more buses. They also attacked cops, injuring several policemen.
Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, said immediately after the accident, the driver and conductor had escaped down a dark lane. The mob, however, tracked them down and beat them up.
“Witnesses told us that a few people in the crowd had put the injured driver and conductor in a taxi,’’ said officer-in-charge of Lalbazar traffic control room, Sushanta Mitra. “We checked nursing homes and hospitals in the neighbourhood but could not locate the duo,’’ he added. Police records indicate that the bus-owner’s name is Parimal Banerjee. Officers said they were not able to contact him.
On Wednesday, Ajit Saha of the Bengal Bus Syndicate alleged that the driver and conductor were assaulted and members of his union have not been able to locate them. Joint secretary of the bus syndicate Tapan Banerjee warned that his union members would take their buses off the road if the police failed to find the duo in the next 72 hours.
Meanwhile, tests conducted on the killer bus indicated that there were certain mechanical faults in the vehicle. “A preliminary check indicated that the brakes, clutch and the lever were not in a roadworthy condition,’’ an officer said.
Singh has reportedly decided to take stern action against the driver of the bus. “He has issued orders to suspend the licence of the driver,’’ Mitra said.
Sources said the police are disturbed by the fact that 40 people have died in 37 road accidents in September this year. “Of these, buses have run over 15 people,’’ said Singh.
He blamed the “commission system among starters in bus stands’’ for the spurt in accidents. “I have urged the bus syndicates to ensure that drivers are trained to control the speed of their vehicles on busy thoroughfares,’’ Singh said.