Monday, 30th October 2017

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Race without remorse - No signs of lesson learnt on day after

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  • Published 6.04.08

Saturday, April 5: Buses raced and swerved on VIP Road all day long, slowing down only at the spot from where the 217B had skidded off and sunk yesterday, killing 20 passengers.

“You people have not learnt your lesson even after taking so many lives,” shouted a woman in a speeding bus.

The Telegraph reporter had boarded the 30C/1 (Babughat-Hatiara) from Ultadanga at 2.05pm. The bus was packed with around 65 passengers — many of them mothers and children returning home from school — but the driver refused to slow down.

As he overtook other buses and autos right and left — just like the 217B had done 24 hours earlier only to plunge into the Lower Bagjola Canal — a few voices of protest were heard from among the women.

“Why do you not understand that even your lives are in danger?” said a woman, heading home after picking up her six-year-old daughter from school.

The appeals fell on callous ears. “There’s a bus on this route every three minutes. If we don’t drive fast, the bus leaving the terminus after us will pick up our passengers,” argued the conductor nonchalantly.

Not a murmur came out of the men passengers.

But among the hundreds of buses tearing down VIP Road, not one was plying on route 217B. No 217B dared roll out of the Babughat terminus today.

At the terminus — from where six members of the Mondol family had boarded the bus for Gopalpur yesterday (only three got out alive) — people were tight-lipped. “The buses are not plying today; we cannot say anything more,” a man said.

A driver on route 237 was more forthright. “If any 217B passes Kestopur today, people are sure to set it ablaze. They will not risk that and will wait for things to cool down,” he shrugged.

On VIP Road, the 30C/1 — like all the other buses — slowed down as it approached the accident site.

A hush fell on the bus. The women went silent, the men stooped to peer through the windows and the two conductors abandoned their ticket-collection drive and headed back to their doors.

All eyes were on the canal. “Bus ta ki ekhane-i pore doob-e gechhilo (Did the bus topple over and sink here)?” a few passengers asked one another.

Children pestered their mothers to point out the exact spot. The women murmured regrets over the loss of young lives.

The conductor shouted to the driver to get going. Spell broken, the bus raced up peril path, better known as VIP Road, dodging private cars and taking on other buses as if there was no tomorrow.

An elderly man seated at the rear sighed. “How many more lives must be lost for this to stop?” he asked.

No one in the speeding bus had an answer.