Calcutta, March 25: A 36-year-old morning walker was today crushed under a speeding truck at the Hastings Crossing, sparking a furore among passers-by who alleged the vehicle was trying to skirt bribe-hungry traffic sergeants.
Police, however, denied the charge, saying there were no sergeants at the accident site.
According to officers of Hastings police station, Subarna Gopal, a temporary worker at the race course, was hit by the truck while crossing A.J.C. Bose Road on his way home around 6 am.
Gopal, who lived close-by on Bakery Road, was taken to SSKM Hospital, where he was declared brought dead.
'We have launched a hunt for the driver who fled after hitting the man,' said deputy commissioner of police (traffic) Jawed Shamim.
Soon after the mishap, Gopal's neighbours rushed to the spot and joined the protesting passers-by. An army of 500 scuffled with policemen and set up a blockade at the crossing, bringing traffic on A.J.C. Bose Road, St. Georges Gate Road and Kidderpore Road to a halt for nearly two hours. They also attacked a state bus, injuring its driver.
'Errant heavy vehicle drivers go scot-free as policemen are busy greasing their palms,' alleged an elderly Abani Konar, who saw the accident.
In April last year, two boys came under the wheels of a truck allegedly trying to flee from the clutches of a policeman asking for bribe in north Calcutta. Four months later, an assistant sub-inspector's alleged bribe chase turned fatal when a lorry smashed his car. He was killed along with two others accompanying him.
Shamim today turned the heat on the crowd. 'When our officers tried to take the victim to hospital, the mob went on a rampage. None of our personnel was collecting bribes,' he said.
'At one point, we felt a lathicharge would be needed. However, our senior officers arrived and managed to placate the crowd,' said an officer of Hastings police station.
Witnesses said the truck picked up speed while approaching the crossing to avoid the policemen posted there. 'This taking of bribes is a regular feature here,' alleged Sabinder Kumar Singh, the driver of a mini truck.
According to Singh, the truck fled towards Kidderpore. 'The man was flung into the air and when he fell on the road, blood gushed out of his right temple where the truck had hit him,' he said.
'The greed of the cops took the life of a young man today. I fear many more lives will end because of this,' alleged Swapna Bhattacharya, Gopal's neighbour.
Gopal's family, too, blames the cops. 'We were slated to leave for Nepal this afternoon. Every morning, he used to go out for a walk. They (police) murdered my son,' sobbed his mother Saraswati Devi.