The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Road rules hit Calcutta dead-end
Fatal flaws
Pedestrians don’t wait for the signal while crossing
Pedestrians don’t use zebra crossings
Pedestrians jaywalk
Drivers move out of their own lanes
Drivers (of buses) overtake and stop in the middle of the road for passengers
Drivers overtake from the left


Are Calcuttans the worst when it comes to following road rules' Calcutta Police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty sure thinks so.

And three accidents on Monday within a few kilometres of Rabindra Sadan, where Chakraborty was inaugurating a road-safety week, bore grim testimony to this dubious distinction.

“Educated people in Calcutta seem to have a mental block when it comes to one aspect of their learning — basic traffic rules,” said Chakraborty, singling out this one trait that “distinguishes” Calcuttans from residents of other cities. The pedestrian scampering across the road with one hand raised above his head and missing the speeding vehicle by a whisker was one sight no other city could boast of, observed the police chief.

Outside Rabindra Sadan, Calcuttans were busy proving Chakraborty right, with tragic consequences. The first mishap occurred on Tollygunge Circular Road. A yet-to-be-identified cyclist tried to cut across the busy road but ended up under the wheels of a speeding bus. The cyclist died at MR Bangur Hospital, the bus was impounded but the driver fled the accident site.

The second accident on the first day of the road-safety week occurred on BT Road when 14-year-old Sayanti Das, on her way to Sashimukhi Balika Vidyalaya, was crushed by an oil tanker. The vehicle was impounded, but the driver managed to flee.

The third mishap, fortunately, did not prove fatal, as the driver of a ‘luxury coach’ rammed into a lamppost not far from Howrah station, sending three Ganga Sagar pilgrims to hospital.

How can things be set right' One answer, feels Chakraborty, lies in people’s participation. “It is a mistake to say that the traffic department of Calcutta Police (organisers of the week-long awareness drive) controls traffic in Calcutta. It is done by Calcuttans themselves,” he said.

And so, the strategy of children steering the road-safety drive. “Going through the humiliation of being reprimanded by someone his daughter’s age, in public view, is something that even a Calcuttan tends not to forget in a hurry,” quipped the police chief.

At the Rabindra Sadan function, police officers unveiled traffic-management plans for the future and screened films documenting two recent incidents highlighting the tragedy of such mishaps — one of them revolved round thalassaemia patient Bappaditya Haldar, who bled to death on Amherst Street, sparking the suicide of three family members.

The final frame, however, was reserved for sergeant Bapi Sen, whose death was caused on the streets of Calcutta not by accident but by a deliberate and diabolical act.

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