Bishu Das, the driver of a private bus on the Birati-BBD Bag route, was a regular offender, violating traffic rules with impunity.
Each time he was booked for rash driving, a token penalty was paid and he was back in the driver’s seat. But for the next seven weeks, Das will not be allowed to endanger lives on city streets — his driving licence has been cancelled for 60 days.
Das seems to have finally learnt his lesson. “We have pleaded with police officials not to extend the cancellation period beyond two months. The financial hardship I am facing from end-November has taught me a lesson. I will never violate traffic rules again,” he promised.
To curb reckless driving in Calcutta — regarding which Metro had carried out a lengthy campaign — the traffic authorities and police in some pockets have embarked on “limited-period cancellation” of licences.
“We used to slap monetary penalties on errant drivers of buses and goods carriages, but that did not deter them from repeating the offence,” said C. Banerjee, the regional transport officer of Barasat.
Enter, Section 19 of Motor Vehicles Act and Part 3 of West Bengal Motor Vehicles Act (1989). Under this, “driving licences can be cancelled for a period of upto six months”.
“In the past four months, we have cancelled licences of 16 drivers for varying periods. Their licences will be permanently cancelled in case of more traffic norm violations. Till now, we feel this measure is acting as a potent deterrent for drivers involved in rash driving,” said Supratim Sarkar, the superintendent of police (North 24-Parganas).
Sadhan Mondal, a driver on the Nagerbazar-Gol Park route, is an example of a driver chastised. He was earlier booked thrice for rash driving, but was back behind the wheel, thanks to a meagre penalty and bail from court.
But after being booked last month, his licence was cancelled for 30 days. “This has hit me where it hurts. From now on, I will be very careful while driving,” says Mondal.
According to police, nearly 800 cases of traffic-rule violation are registered every month in the VIP Road-Jessore Road belt, 40 per cent which are linked to rash driving.
Not to be outdone by their colleagues in North 24-Parganas, the city police have also decided to slam the brakes on errant drivers.
“We are cancelling at least a dozen licences every month for varying periods, depending on the offence of the drivers,” said Manoj Verma, the deputy commissioner of police (traffic).
Citu, which must shoulder part of the blame for drivers affiliated to the union not caring about road rules, said the cancellation of licences was a step in the right direction but with a rider.
“Such punishment will deter errant drivers. But the police must use the law to teach them a lesson without being harsh,” said Kali Ghosh, the secretary of the state unit of Citu.