ACCIDENT WATCH: Death again on potholed road – how many more will have to suffer, how many more will have to die; can’t we ask Bengal why ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Sept. 9: The potholed road of Jalpaiguri today claimed the life of a Class X student even as the 10-day-old indefinite bus strike started affecting around 2,000 vehicle workers besides more than a lakh of passengers.
Kaushik Tamang of Odlabari was on way to Bagrakote Nepali High School, around 10km away, on an auto-rickshaw (or pickup truck?!!) when the vehicle turned turtle on NH31, killing the 15-year-old on the spot. Twenty-two others were injured in the accident.
Two days ago, a Guwahati-bound bus fell into a ditch to avoid a deep pothole on NH31C near Jaigaon, killing one passenger and injuring 11 others.
“The students were travelling in an over-loaded auto in the absence of private buses. As the vehicle left Odlabari, its front wheel fell into a pothole and turned on its side,” said Sujit Das, an Odlabari resident. “The injured students were rushed to Malbazar Subivisional Hospital.”
Around 1,500 buses in Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Darjeeling districts are off the roads since August 31 as part of the strike called by the North Bengal Passenger Transport Owners’ Coordination Committee to protest bad thoroughfares.
According to the bus owners, around 5,000 people eke out a living from the vehicles.
“Of them, nearly 3,000 are permanent employees and the rest are day labourers. It is true that because of the strike, the casual labourers have not been getting any remuneration for the past 10 days,” said Pranab Mani, the committee secretary. “We are aware of their problems but helpless. We will hold a review meeting on Saturday to decide whether the strike will be continued or not.”
The casual workers are, however, waiting for the strike to end. “Passengers are facing inconvenience but somehow they are reaching their destinations, may be by forking out extra money. But we have no option other than sitting around and consuming our little savings or doing some odd jobs,” said Rakesh Mahato, who works as a helper in a private bus.
Others like Jatin Roy are collecting passengers for small vehicles that are on the roads in Siliguri. “I am getting some money as commission from the drivers as we have no clue when the strike will end,” Roy said.
At Odlabari, local people set up a blockade at the accident spot blaming the administration for bad roads. Malbazar police persuaded the protesters to lift the blockade after nearly three hours at 12 noon. The driver fled but the vehicle has been seized.