A spurt in fatal accidents at the start of the year has raised questions about traffic policing in the city.
Between January 7 and 14, eight people died in road accidents in Calcutta, three of them run over by speeding vehicles. The figure is significantly more than the average fatal accident count of about four a week in the city, said police.
During this period, two more persons died, succumbing to injuries sustained in road accidents on December 31. These accidents occurred at 4pm and 6.30pm, when traffic cops are out in full force on the road.
A majority of the fatal accidents between January 7 and 14 also occurred when traffic cops were on duty on the road. The figures fly in the face of the "intense traffic policing" the chief minister often talks about.
"It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for a fatal accident. If a vehicle hits somebody while trying to overtake another, we generally take strong action. But other reasons, such as mechanical failure, also cause accidents," said Dilip Adak, deputy commissioner (traffic).
Officers in his department, however, blame lax policing for most of the recent accidents. According to them, several intersections, such as the Vivekananda Road-Bidhan Sarani crossing, have become death traps. Signals at the intersection are controlled from a traffic booth that is often unmanned, especially at night.
"On January 3, a lorry collided with an ambulance at Vivekananda Road-Bidhan Sarani intersection, injuring six people. One of them, Jharna Malika, 34, died on January 9. The accident occurred around 1.30am, when vehicles tend to drive through the crossing without slowing down," said an officer.
Traffic cops recently started late policing on weekends ' up to 2am ' at some of the traffic guards, including Jorabagan and Shaymbazar under the north, east and headquarters. The effect is not yet visible on the ground.
Last Sunday, 24-year-old Mantu Bhowmick, a Parnasree resident, was run over by a CTC bus in front of gate No. 2 of Jadavpur University. The accident occurred at 9.50am but there was no traffic policeman in the area, said witnesses. Residents stopped the bus and alerted the cops.
On Monday, 19-year-old Rajdeep Bhattacharya of Gobindo Ghosh Lane in Kalighat was run over by a private bus near a petrol pump on the Rashbehari connector. He died at a private hospital. The accident occurred around 7.30am, within traffic policing hours but there was no cop around, said witnesses.
"There is a shortage of manpower in the 11 traffic guards in the areas recently added to Calcutta police, including Behala, Pragati Maidan, Kasba and Jadavpur. We are trying to ensure that traffic cops are posted at all important intersections. Speeding is another problem," said a senior traffic officer.
The situation is no better even during peak hours and at busy intersections. On January 7, Shyamali Samanta was run over by a private bus near Metro cinema on JL Nehru Road around 6pm.
"Some areas like AJC Bose Road and Sealdah need far better traffic policing," said Manas Ghosh, a private bank employee residing at Entally.