Today is a relatively safe day for people to venture out on the streets of Kolkata. The CITU, a politically backed union, has supported a strike by the state’s bus and auto drivers. The reason – not speed regulators, fuel price, or fare hikes, but something more gory – the bus drivers want to retain their freedom to get bail, after injuring people and being a part of fatal accidents. The courts have ruled that drivers in fatal accidents can be now booked under the non-bailable section 304A. The existing procedure was to book them under the bailable section 304 – thus allowing them to go practically free after causing (or in rare cases, being-involved-in-for-no-fault-of-theirs) a serious accident.
Their argument – drivers are rarely responsible for fatal accidents. Road conditions, traffic, pedestrians are the other causes.
Walk on any road in Kolkata, and you will find buses running not in one lane, but between two – to block other buses, and ensure that the buses breathing down its back do not get ahead. The result : daily, a minimum of 5-6 people injured or killed, so that the bus drivers earn some more commission, and their masters earn some more money.
What encourages these people is the lackadaisical and irresponsible attitude of the government (the minister can’t even organize a felicitation for Maradona properly, let alone worry about transport), and the fact that, as is the case with these things, the decision makers and owners do not have to venture out on the streets on foot – they have drivers and convoys with security, and do not understand the common man’s plight.