| The brother of Asha and Pushpa stares vacantly out of his home hours after the tragedy. Picture by Amit Datta
A trailer with no permit to trundle through peak-hour traffic, crushed two sisters at the Bondel Gate railway crossing, around 10.30 am on Thursday.
Asha Mahato, 5, and Pushpa Mahato, 8, were buying guavas from a vendor sitting by the east gate of the Bondel Gate railway crossing. The sisters, who lived in a nearby slum, had not noticed the trailer laden with iron sheets hurtling towards them.
Two trucks, including the killer vehicle stranded on the tracks, were torched by a mob after the accident. The driver and helper of the trailer managed to flee. A contingent from Tiljala police station dispersed the crowd with a mild lathicharge and restored order around 11.15 am.
Even though it was well past the deadline for such vehicles to enter city roads, the trailer was allowed to carry on without police resistance. No one could say why.
South 24-Parganas police said the accident spot fell under the jurisdiction of the government railway police. The railway police denied this and pointed out how the vehicle had been impounded by the Tiljala police, under the South 24-Parganas administration.
'The movement of heavy vehicles along Bondel Road is restricted between 8.30 pm and 8.30 am, and the trailer had no permit to ply there,' said H.K. Kusumakar, additional superintendent of police (industrial), South 24-Parganas. 'Traffic management is chaotic in the area,' he admitted.
L. Sinha, a resident of the area, explained just why: 'Truckers regularly flout traffic rules here by bribing policemen. This causes severe traffic snarls at the railway gate and creates an accident-prone zone.'
Thursday's accident claimed two lives and shattered a home. Sriram Mahato, father of the girls, runs a roadside eatery in Bhowanipore to sustain his family, which till Thursday morning comprised his wife and five children.
'I've lost two children today, and I will not let the persons responsible get away scot-free,' said a tearful Mahato, surrounded by two daughters and a son, all aged below 10 and all bewildered by the tragedy.
Wife Sita, who had lost consciousness on hearing about the accident, lay listless.
Residents alleged that government railway police personnel allowed vendors like the fruit-seller to sit by the railway tracks for a fee, while cops on duty gave goods vehicles the nod, again for a fee.
Nabarun Bhattacharya, superintendent of railway police (Sealdah division), said: 'I have received no complaints about our personnel taking bribes from trucks, but I have ordered an inquiry.'