Biker torment in Puja

Durgapur, Oct. 25: Lawlessness rode on two-wheelers in Durgapur this Puja with five persons dying, 200 youths getting injured for alleged rash driving and over 600 arrests for drink driving, brawls and teasing, police said.

Many residents alleged lack of proper policing and patrolling. They said they were scared to step out of their homes during Puja because of rash and drink driving by motorcyclists. The residents alleged that the civic police personnel at assistance booths set up by the police near big pandals did not take any steps to curb the menace.

Sarupa Sahu, a 28-year-old call-centre employee, complained of harassment by a drunken group of motorcycle-borne youths on Navami night at the Bhagat Singh crossing. "I was pandal-hopping with my husband when 15 youths on five bikes passed lewd remarks at me. My husband tried to stop them but they sped away. I got scared and returned home. There was no policeman at the crossing and traffic had come to a halt," she said.

Retired Durgapur Steel Plant employee Akshay Chowdhury, 70, said he had never seen such rash and drink driving in Durgapur during Puja in the past 40 years.

"Like every year, I had taken my grandson out on Saptami evening. I had a bitter experience. Three bikes were racing, one of them lost control and swerved towards me and my eight-year-old grandson. We somehow escaped. The bike skidded and rammed into a tree. None of the three youths on the bike was wearing a helmet and they suffered injuries. I did not dare to venture out of my house on the other days," said Chowdhury, a resident of B-zone in the Durgapur Steel Township.

At Durgapur subdivisional hospital, 120 two-wheeler accident victims were treated this Puja. Four persons died and 52, including two women, had to be admitted.

"Many of those injured were drunk. The number of cases were much higher than last year," said Mihir Kumar Nandi, a pathologist.

At Mission Hospital, 30 motorcycle accident victims were brought in during Puja. One died and 23 were admitted with fractured bones and other injuries.

The residents alleged that liquor was sold in roadside dhabas throughout the night in collusion with the police.

"I was stuck in a traffic snarl when I saw many youths drinking at a roadside dhaba. Their bikes were parked outside. The dhaba was just a stone's throw from the Faridpur police outpost off NH2. Three youths without helmets sped away on their bike after consuming alcohol," said lawyer Tusar Gupta.

The police denied the allegations against them. "We had exhibited beside NH2 a car mangled in an accident and put up hoardings around it warning people of the consequences of rash driving. It is sad five persons on bikes died in bike accidents this Puja despite the vigil," an officer said.

The police said at least 500 youths were arrested for drink and rash driving, teasing women at pandals and brawling outside bars and restaurants.

"The police were very much active. That is why so many people were arrested. Our mobile jeeps patrolled Durgapur from dawn to dusk. Some accident cases were reported, which is unfortunate," said Sunil Yadav, the additional deputy commissioner of police (east division).