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‘The cabbie said he’d hurl us off the bridge’

- Cop asks the complainant what to do with road rogue

A taxi driver without his licence allegedly threatened to throw two young women off Dhakuria Bridge for questioning his refusal to go to Behala and then dared them to call the cops, saying he wanted to “see what they can do”.

Sanghamitra Chatterjee and Debarati Banerjee, both MNC executives, braved the driver’s threat to dial the Lalbazar helpline and were rewarded with the services of a cop who was allegedly so “soft” on the accused that they felt even more helpless.

The duo’s taxi trauma last Monday evening was similar to that of Samita Lahiri and Arunima Roy in June, when a cabbie had threatened to take them “where I want” for telling him that refusing a passenger was an offence. Sanghamitra recounts to Metro the incident that left her and Debarati as disillusioned as they were rattled.

It was around 7pm on August 27. The two of us had just left office and were desperately looking for a taxi near Golpark to reach home. On seeing an empty one approaching, I waved a hand and was relieved to see the driver stop. I and Debarati boarded the car (WB19C 3382), little knowing what awaited us. The car started moving towards Dhakuria and I remember we were in front of a jewellery shop in the area when the driver asked where we wanted to go.

“Behala Chowrasta,” I answered. “Aami Behala jabo na, ekhane neme jaan (I won’t go to Behala, you get down here),” the driver shot back.

When I asked him why, the driver said he would only go to Ajoynagar (on the southern fringes) because he stayed there. After an exhausting day at work, I was irritated to hear such an excuse. I asked him why his meter showed “available for hire” if he didn’t want to pick up passengers. He switched off the meter and said: “Look, I have done it now. Get off my taxi.”

We were taken aback by his defiance. “Tumi ki dadagiri dekhachho (Are you trying to browbeat us)?” I demanded. “Hain, aami dadagiri dekhachhi (Yes, I am),” he retorted.

We were in the middle of Dhakuria Bridge then. We refused to get off, at which the 30-something driver threatened to throw us off the bridge. I immediately dialled the helpline for taxi refusal.

The driver turned to glare at me and said: “I have seen many sergeants. Call them, I want to see what they can do.”

He again started driving. As we went down the southern slope of the bridge and reached the Dakshinapan crossing, the driver braked again. I saw a man in uniform approaching the car. He identified himself as A.K. Ghosh and asked me what the problem was. I gave him the lowdown.

The cop asked for the cabbie’s driving licence, which he failed to produce. He instead showed a slip issued to him last April against his licence, which had apparently been seized for a traffic violation. The cop asked the driver why he hadn’t paid the stipulated penalty so far and collected his licence.

“I am busy. I haven’t had the time to do so,” he replied.

I was surprised to see the cop’s reaction, he didn’t even reprimand the driver. He handed me his cellphone and said the deputy commissioner of police, traffic, wanted to talk to me. The voice at the other end identified himself and assured me that the police were trying their best to “educate” the rogues on the road. I didn’t know what to say.

Ghosh asked me what to do with the driver. I told him it was the police’s responsibility to decide, I could at best give him a written complaint. He said it wasn’t required.

All the while, our tormentor was seated in the car. It was 9pm and the thought of my child waiting for me crossed my mind. I took another taxi to reach home.