The Autocratic Vehicles of Death

The increasing number of road accidents in Kolkata demand serious attention. Despite constant media glare, the government turns a blind eye to the menace. If the numerous isolated incidents were not enough, the mishap on the VIP road should have evoked some response at least. Private buses in which the drivers and conductors work on commission basis, engage in overtaking and rash driving without any fear whatsoever of the authorities. In the incident I was referring to, the driver of a crowded bus lost control and the bus veered headlong into a ditch. The driver fled while trapped passengers including children returning from school lost their lives. If this was an exception, we could perhaps gasp in horror and let the situation go, but no, these frequent mishaps occur varying in magnitude. Thankfully, if not the authorities then at least the commuters have woken up to some extent. After that incident a bus was stopped by the passengers forcibly as it was overtaking another bus and later it turned out that the driver was without a license. He was being “trained”- a training which is more expensive than any in the world, one that could have cost few precious lives.

Private buses are not the only culprits, the autos are perhaps the deadliest rulers of the roads at present. Thousands of them ply throughout the city without license. They are fuelled by “kaanta -tel” a local name for adulterated fuel and the spiraling price of petrol isn’t helping the case either. The numerous outlets operate fearlessly as the police ignore the matter. The citu for whom this is a lucrative business, “protect” the autowallahs against law of course, for which the vehicle owners pay them. Nearly a thousand Citu activists had stopped transport officials from booking illegal auto rickshaws at Salt Lake. Well, nothing better can be expected in such a city where if asked about the rising pollution levels the transport minister tells the public to go and live in the “sunder bans”.

Not only in terms of pollution but these autos flout every traffic rule without any qualms as the police in fear of the unions just ignore them. They create a choc-a –bloc condition in some of the key roads in the city and to add to the misery of passengers there is no fixed fare rate. Any demand by the passenger to see the rate chart in salt lake where the concept has been recently introduced is met with severe verbal abuse. The people working in the IT sector in salt lake are expected to pay any amount that is asked for.

Various shuttles that carry passengers from one part of the city to another are also death traps. They do not run on adulterated petrol but cooking gas cylinders illegally procured. The condition of the vehicles is serious as no maintenance activity takes place. People who have offices in park street and Camac Street have no other option except to avail these, as the state buses plying on this route namely E 2 has been conveniently out of service.

People are becoming aware of this scenario and they are protesting but no effective solution can be reached until and unless the authorities wake-up to the situation and stop sheltering the culprits. Efforts have been made but more needs to be done.

Shiny Das

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