BHUBANESWAR: Private bus operators of the State on Monday raised a banner of protest and decided not to ply buses to Puri from Tuesday after three vehicles were torched by a mob in Pipili that went berserk when a village headman and his wife were killed in a road mishap earlier in the day.
A gathering of around 400 persons set fire to the buses out of which two were charred. They also roughed up police and Fire Service personnel on Bhubaneswar-Puri National Highway. The drivers fled after the mishap but all the bus passengers were evacuated safely.
Taking objection to the mob frenzy, the All Odisha Bus Owners’ Association (AOBOA) convened an urgent meeting which demanded arrest of the rioters, compensation for the bus owners whose vehicles were set ablaze and safety for passengers and bus employees travelling on the Puri route.
“The agitation will be intensified if the State Police fails to take exemplary action against the mischief-mongers who damage vehicles and harass passengers and our employees. These type of incidents are occurring frequently,” AOBOA spokesperson Debasis Nayak told this paper.
Earlier in the day at around 9.15 am, Hadu Khan and his wife Kuni Bibi, who were en route to the daily market in Pipili, were mowed down by a bus which was heading towards Bhubaneswar. Khan was about to overtake a stationary bus when another bus rammed into his two-wheeler from behind. The woman died on the spot and Khan succumbed on the way to hospital.
Hadu was the headman of Jajapur village under Pipili police limits and is survived by three daughters. Within minutes of the mishap, locals gathered and torched the two buses involved as well as a third one parked close by.
With the crowd swelling and local police unable to control the situation, three platoons of force were mobilised from the district headquarters. Vehicular movement on the National Highway came to a standstill for over one hour. The traffic was cleared after Rs 40,000 was released from the Red Cross fund as financial assistance for the deceased’s family, Puri SP Dr Sarthak Sarangi said.
Locals said overspeeding and competition driving resulted in the fatal accident. “Accidents have become a regular affair at Pipili market. Their is no traffic policing in place. The buses move at high speed caring two hoots for the local commuters,” said Dasarathi Mohapatra, the owner of an applique shop.
While police registered a case under relevant Sections of the IPC, private bus operators have threatened to go on strike demanding arrest of the arsonists. “An Additional SP has been designated to investigate and find the persons who instigated the crowd and torched the vehicles,” Sarangi said.