Bus stop message falls on deaf ears - Efforts of mishap victim's parents fail to stop rash driving near campus

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By TALAT SALAHUDDIN
  • Published 3.08.10
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A bus shelter opposite Calcutta University’s Alipore campus, built by the parents of a student who was run over while trying to get off a moving bus seven months ago, lies unused, ignored by drivers in the absence of police monitoring.

The bus shelter with marble flooring, built at a cost of Rs 3 lakh, bears a photograph of Asha Bhattacharjee, the first-year student of South and South East Asian Studies of Calcutta University who was killed in the mishap. It was meant to ensure that no such accident happened on the stretch again.

Asha had set out from her Thakurpukur home for the Alipore campus on December 12 morning, around 10 minutes late.

As the minibus she had boarded was slowing down outside the university gate, the driver spotted that the traffic light at the National Library crossing had turned green and hit the accelerator.

Asha, who was already late for her class, tried to get off the moving bus since it was not stopping. She slipped and fell on the road and was crushed by the rear wheels of the vehicle. She was taken to SSKM Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

“I know we will never get Asha back. My only request to Calcutta traffic police is to take strict action against those who drive rashly. I built this stop to convey the message that the young boys and girls who regularly visit the campus should not meet with an accident. The traffic department must build some speed-breakers near the university gate,” said Asha’s father Asim.

The message has not reached cops, drivers or students.

“Seven months after the tragedy, traffic management outside our campus remains as unsafe as ever. Students get off running buses. Sometimes policemen are posted here but are busy collecting bribes from goods vehicles. Another fatal accident is just waiting to happen,” said Anirban Bhattacharya, a classmate of Asha.

“The place is accident prone as drivers do not stop near the university gate if the traffic light is green. After the shelter was built, a student of our university luckily survived an accident similar to the one that killed Asha,” said Md Rafique Habibi, a friend of the girl.

Firhad Hakim, the MLA from the Alipore constituency who is also the mayoral council member of the road and engineering department of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, said: “This bus stop was necessary for the safety of the students. But now my aim is to do something about the errant drivers. I have held many meetings with Calcutta police. This stretch turns more dangerous at night. I know that Asha’s family’s loss cannot be compensated but we must prevent such mishaps.”

Chandan Chatterjee, the caretaker of the campus, cannot forget the fateful day. “The incident still haunts me. I will never forget the sight of Asha’s body being brought to the campus,” he said.

“But little has changed. We had lodged several complaints with the traffic department about reckless driving outside the campus but to no avail. We have made arrangements for first-aid on our campus,” Chatterjee added.

A sergeant of Bhowanipore traffic guard said: “We set up a traffic checkpost near the university to keep a close eye on vehicular movement. Every day we slap at least 20 to 22 spot fines on unruly drivers on the stretch.”