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Pranab accident probe report by Tuesday

The West Bengal government has ruled out any chances of "foul play" or "lapses" in VVIP security following the accident of External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday night, reports Rahul Das.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2007 22:24 IST
Rahul Das

The West Bengal government has ruled out any chances of "foul play" or "lapses" in VVIP security following the accident of External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday night.

The government came to this conclusion after senior police officers led by additional director general of Intelligence Branch Dilip Kumar Mitra inspected the area and submitted a detail report regarding the accident on Tuesday to the DGP, AB Vohra. The report will be forwarded to the Centre.

The probe by the state police, particularly by its Intelligence Branch, was important since West Bengal Pradesh Congress had demanded an inquiry to find out how a truck could hit the minister's car and alleged lapses in Mukherjee's security. The accident could have been fatal had Mukherjee not traveled in a bulletproof car. "During investigation we found out that there was no hostile approach by the owner of the truck which gives us an impression that there was no security breach in his convoy," Director, Security, AK Maliwal said.

The report also blamed the narrow road on the Krishnanagar-Palassey stretch, which was mainly responsible for the mishap. "The 40-km stretch on NH-34 is too narrow. While the general width on the highway is 40 feet, on this stretch it is only 20 feet. Had the road been broader, the accident may have not have taken place," ADG, Traffic, Utpal Kumar Dutta said.

The report also clarified that Mukherjee, who is ranked next only to the Prime Minister in the Union Cabinet, was taken to hospital in a spare vehicle and not in a rickshaw as reported in some of the press. "Only one of the injured policemen was boarded in a cycle rickshaw but later he was also taken to a hospital in one of the vehicles," Maliwal added.

Senior police officers claimed that an ambulance was not a mandatory part of Mukherjee's convoy. "Those VVIPs who are covered by the Yellow Book are entitled to an ambulance but those covered by the Blue Book are not," a senior police officer said. He, however, pointed out that had the external affairs minister wanted an ambulance, the state government would have readily provided one. "But there was no request from the minister," he said.

The ADG (Traffic), Dutta, and the DIG (Traffic), SMI Azam, visited the spot at Birpara Ghat More in Nakashipara-Budh-Hattala and talked to local residents who had witnessed the accident. The team was accompanied by senior DIG (Murshidabad range) Debasish Roy, Nadia SP HK Kusumakar and District Magistrate Onkar Sing Meena.

The ADG, Dutta, personally spoke to the owner of Satyanarayan Variety Stores, Swarup Dutta. The truck overturned on Mukherjee's car in front of this shop. After speaking to him, the ADG said that eyewitnesses said that there was a distance of about few meters between the pilot car and Mukherjee's car. "So there were no lapses here also," a senior police officer said.

Mukherjee, who was returning to Kolkata from Murshidabad district, was flown to New Delhi on Monday by a special aircraft from the Kolkata airport.