| The condition of the tram tracks on Judges' Court Road. (Below): Nanda Ray, who was killed in an accident on Thursday night. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Roads ravaged by tram tracks claimed a victim late on Thursday, when a cement-laden truck lost control after hitting a crater on Judges' Court Road and ploughed into a middle-aged milkman on a cycle.
Police said Nanda Ray, 42, who was pedalling home (opposite Alipore Central jail) close to midnight, was crushed under the wheels of the truck hurtling towards him from the opposite direction on pothole-pitted Judges' Court Road with jagged tram tracks.
This stretch is just one of the many that lie unattended as the authorities bicker over rights and revenues and commuters continue to suffer.
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has refused to touch roads fallen foul of tramlines, Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) pleads lack of funds, power players in Writers' Buildings are playing pass-the-buck and the high court is trying to fix responsibility.
Back to the accident site. The truck was impounded and its cleaner arrested, but the driver managed to flee. A recovery van was called in to extricate a profusely-bleeding Ray from under the wheels of the truck, whose axle had broken on hitting the pothole.
An unconscious Ray was rushed to SSKM Hospital, where he was declared dead. The body of the victim, who hailed from Patna, was handed over to his younger brother.
Minutes after the mishap, hundreds of local residents, including Trinamul Congress workers, staged a sit-in on Judges' Court Road, protesting the condition of roads and tram tracks. They demonstrated till 3 am on Friday, demanding the presence of officials from the CTC.
With the protest threatening to snowball, deputy commissioner of police Anuj Sharma arrived on the spot and called in the Rapid Action Force (RAF). The crowd then dispersed, promising to be back later in the day.
Around 8.30 am, the protesters arrived, raising slogans against the CTC. With no official redress in sight, local Trinamul councillor Ruby Dutta called for two barrels of tar. She, along with some CMC personnel, then proceeded to tar the tracks in a bid to stop trams from plying.
As a result, traffic along Hazra Road and Judges' Court Road and the Kalighat area was thrown out of gear till 1.30 pm.
Dutta claimed that a letter had been sent to CTC managing director S.N. Pal on January 20 with a request to undertake urgent repair of the tracks. No action was taken.
When contacted on Friday night, Pal said P. Guha Biswas, a senior engineer, had already visited the site. 'We are being unnecessarily blamed for the mishap. However, we will repair the tracks on an emergency basis,' he added.
According to officials, at least 20 tramcars on routes 24, 29, 30, 24/36, and several state and private buses could not ply normally due to the protest on Judges' Court Road.