By Goutam Shankar
Popular character actor, Prodip Saha jogged and sweated as he approached me at the Rabindra Sarovar. He seemed like a panther under the blazing sun eyeing a deer in the shade.
I naturally stepped aside to avoid a dash while he stopped in his tracks to grunt, “Good Morning!”
In the course of his breathless monosyllables, I gathered that a man had just been shot near the gate of the lake and he was rushing to get the police who would then get the ambulance.
I asked him why he or the other morning walkers had not used their cell phones to alert the police.
Before he could reply, the wail of police vans and the ambulance could be heard. And by the time Prodip fast-walked and I jogged (pun intended, in my case) to reach the site of the shooting, the victim had been whizzed away by the police and paramedics to the nearest hospital.
A crowd was still there, discussing the shooting, the victim and the latter’s survival chances. I made the folly of asking one onlooker in the crowd about the incident.
He looked at me incredulously for no fault of mine and replied, “A man has been shot. He has been taken to hospital. For details, go to the police station.”
He turned away from me and turned to the crowd where a group was discussing the unyielding price of Hilsa fish. Fishy it seemed when the crowd had actually gathered on a shooting scene where the victim was, till a while ago, hanging between life and death. Which way fate ultimately swung for him, remains as mysterious as the cause of swinging Hilsa prices.
Prodip, who had regained his breath by now, pulled me aside and said, “The victim will come through. I saw blood oozing from his right thigh, probably the place where the bullet hit him.
We heard just one shot.” From the facts I gathered from the warbled, muffled and opinion-oriented chit chats, the shooters, three in number, all wearing helmets, had fired one shot at the victim and sped away before people remembered to yell and raise a hue and cry.
I hope, the victim has survived certainly not to live to be shot again.
Such incidents of shooting and stabbing in broad daylight or twilight have become as common as political protests and processions in Kolkata.
Yesterday, a man was shot dead for bargaining too hard while buying some dress material. Another person, reportedly a travel agency owner was shot at by three motorcycle borne criminals.
The victim did not get even a scratch as he scampered home while the three short-sighted shooters tried to flee, scared by the daylight mob of onlookers. While two escaped, the third was lynched by a furious mob. That made it one less for the police to seek.
I am mentioning all these as the state government is mulling a central proposal to let shopping malls, bars and restaurants to function 24×7.
The people of Kolkata seem to be overjoyed with this idea and that includes the business owners and the general frequenters of these joints.
With guns and roses blooming at almost similar frequency, how safe would the implementation of the 24×7 concept be?
Getting drunk at the bars serving guzzlers with unrestricted booze at no extra cost and then visiting malls may be delicate times for molls unless there are adequate security arrangements at these places.
Just amending the state’s Shops and Establishment Act of 1963 will not ensure safety and peace during the sunset-less business hours.
It is OK to go out for shopping after midnight, have a very late dinner outing or go out to gulp down a few pegs at no extra cost while the cocks prepare to crow early, but one can never know when guys with distorted minds may desire some shooting practice for fun, loot or rape which, till now, have already been following the 24×7 pattern.
We still enjoy a piece here and there of peace when pockets in this metropolis breathe easy with shooters and rapists deciding to take a breather.
But such intervals are gradually becoming narrower. Barely a day passes when newspapers are bereft of headliners that pinch the eyeballs with info about the political Swamy and his twitter escapades, IS, black money-white money, shootouts, rapes and government ads with a beaming chief minister.
But then, that is the media’s 24×7 job to provide pieces of information. It is the administration’s and police’s job to provide 24×7 peace to citizens.
But with daylight murders, rapes and other criminal pastimes, what steps would the blue and white government contemplate to yield, if not an improbable 24×7, at least a piece of peace to the minority of general citizens who yearn to breathe easy?
The views expressed are personal of the author. He can be reached at (firstname.lastname@example.org).