An unlicensed auto driver in a hurry to speed past a green signal at Ganguly Bagan in south Calcutta fatally knocked down an elderly pedestrian on Tuesday evening.
Ashutosh Sengupta, 69, was crossing the road at 6.30pm with a bagful of groceries when a Garia-bound auto rammed into him. The retired engineer fell head first and lay unconscious in a pool of blood on the road even as the auto sped away, disappearing into a narrow lane.
Anjan Rai, the driver, is among the 1,500 auto operators who ferry passengers on the busy Garia Station-Golpark route daily. But the man from Bihar was not carrying a licence and the mandatory vehicle documents when arrested late on Tuesday.
Anjan, in his twenties, allegedly said at Patuli police station that he didn’t think the accident was his fault.
“Signal khula tha to bhaga diya. Buddha beech mein aa gaya (signal turned green, so I took off. The old man came in the way),” a relative of Sengupta quoted the driver as saying.
A policeman and two neighbours who saw the accident took Sengupta to a nearby private hospital, where he died of haemorrhage at 10.20pm.
“He was lying on the road and bleeding profusely. I happened to be nearby and helped shift him to hospital, desperately hoping he would pull through,” said 56-year-old Gautam Majumdar, who lives opposite Sengupta’s house in Ramgarh.
Sengupta was a retired engineer of the erstwhile West Bengal State Electricity Board and lived with wife Iti, 60, and elder daughter Chaitali, 35. His younger daughter Srabanti is married and lives with her husband in Singapore.
Family members said Sengupta had got his passport recently and was to fly to Singapore in March to be with his younger daughter, who is pregnant with her first child.
“We are scared of the auto drivers here. Nobody can touch them. Today it is my relative, tomorrow it can be me,” said Dipak Banerjee, Sengupta’s brother-in-law.
The stretch of Raja SC Mullick Road through which autos on the Golpark-Garia Station route ply doesn’t have footpaths, forcing pedestrians to walk down the carriageway. The absence of permanent dividers allows autos to brazenly switch lanes, putting at risk pedestrians and passengers alike.