‘Laxity’ behind IAF officer’s death in Kolkata hit-and-run

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Kolkata, Jan 14 (IANS) A day after an Indian Air Force (IAF) corporal was killed in a hit-and-run incident while he was rehearsing for the Republic Day parade, the defence ministry on Thursday said there was some “laxity” behind the accident.

The accident took place on Wednesday at the Indira Gandhi Sarani (erstwhile Red Road), which is kept out of bounds for civilian traffic during the mornings for the Republic Day parade rehearsals.

Breaking police barricades, a speeding sports utility vehicle knocked down Corporal Abhimanyu Gaud, who was supervising the parade, before hitting a barricade and coming to a halt.

The 21-year-old was rushed to a hospital but was declared brought dead.

Stationed at the Kaliakunda air base, Gaud was in the city as a drill instructor for the Republic Day parade.

Even as he assured that the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army would assist police in tracking the driver who continues to be absconding, defence ministry spokesperson Wing Commander S.S. Birdi said the accident would not have happened but for laxity.

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“There has been laxity, somebody has not done his duty. If the driver managed to come in breaking the barricades, then there has to be some kind of laxity or loophole,” said Birdi.

“On whose part was that laxity will be decided only through legal process,” he said.

While police have launched a manhunt, Birdi said the air force too was investigating the matter.

He also rubbished reports that there was more than one occupant in the car.

“We have come across some witnesses confirming that there was only one man driving the car. We are sharing this information with police as there have reports that the investigators think there may be more than one people in the car,” added Birdi.

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Expressing deep anguish over rash driving, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has assured strong possible action and also directed murder charge be initiated against the driver.

Continuing the hunt for the absconding driver, police have zeroed in on the son of a former city legislator in whose name the SUV was purchased recently.

Unable to track either the former legislator or his son, police suspect they may have fled.

The incident has also acquired political colour with the opposition CPI-M training guns at the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress.

With the former legislator subsequently joining the Trinamool, CPI-M Rajya Sabha member Ritabrata Banerjee accused the administration of going soft on the issue.

“The hallmark of the Trinamool government has been absence of rule of law or any kind of law and order. Despite evidences against them, police will not dare to touch the former legislator or his son only because he is a Trinamool leader,” said Banerjee.

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Meanwhile, the body of Gaud was in the morning handed over to the bereaved family after a solemn funeral parade.

The victim’s family has demanded stringent punishment for the guilty.

“We would have been very proud if my brother was killed in action fighting the enemies. His soul will never get peace until justice is done. The person who killed my brother has not been arrested,” said his brother Bajrangi Gaud.

The body of the air force officer was flown to his home town Surat in Gujarat where his funeral will take place.

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