The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Potshots over killer craters

The blood of a Calcutta Police sub-inspector on the city’s potholed paths prompted chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to see red on Friday, while the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) chose to blame the victim, not the ill-maintained road, for the mishap.

“This mishap has once again exposed the state of the city’s roads,” Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings, referring to Thursday’s death of Arun Majumder. The 45-year-old cop died hours after his motorcycle hit a pothole on CIT Road, late on Wednesday.

“Calcutta is lagging way behind (other cities) in this respect (roads),” the chief minister admitted.

With Bhattacharjee steering the way, the killer roads of Calcutta found themselves under renewed official scrutiny — from Writer’s Buildings, Lalbazar and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) headquarters — on Friday.

With the sharpest indictment of the roads that claimed 457 lives in the last calendar year coming from Bhattacharjee — who negotiates his share of perilous potholes on his weekday rides from Palm Avenue to Writers’ Buildings — the CMC found itself in the harshest focus.

More than 1,500 km of Calcutta’s roads falls under the CMC purview. After scurrying, on Friday, to cover the pothole that had claimed the sub-inspector’s life — a thorough pitch-and-bricks job after Thursday’s rush patchwork — the CMC administration chose to play the blame game, rather than be browbeaten.

Mayor-in-council member (roads) Anup Chatterjee did the tough-talking, going to the extent of blaming Majumder for Wednesday night’s accident. “It was very clearly the rider’s fault,” Chatterjee said on Friday. There was, he claimed, “a three-inch” pothole on the road but, more towards the boulevard. “The sub-inspector who died was driving at a very high speed and could not control his two-wheeler,” he alleged.

Chatterjee did not stop there. “I have been to Mumbai,” he said, adding that “even Andheri” roads were pretty bad. “It is not possible to ensure that all 1,500 km of roads are without potholes,” he fired his final salvo.

Calcutta Police, however, is not convinced. “Regular pleas to the CMC and also the Calcutta Tramways Company (which maintains the tracks and a part of the road along them) have met with no response,” alleged deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh.

The police on Friday initiated a case of “death due to negligence” for Majumder’s tragic end. But there was no entry against the name of the accused.

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