Bikers with helmets at a Raiganj pump. (Nantu Dey)
TT, Raiganj, July 19: Youths who do not wear helmets while riding bikes are “hiring” the protective headgear for Rs 5 to buy fuel following the “No Helmet No Petrol” directive in town.
A spate of threats and assaults by bikers on petrol pump attendants asking them to flout the rules has prompted the North Bengal Petrol Dealers’ Association to approach the district administration seeking security.
The “No Helmet No Petrol” policy came into force here on July 9. But police sources said the appeals had fallen on deaf ears. “Youths here are seen riding bikes without helmets. We have put up notices at all petrol pumps in town saying no fuel would be sold to bikers without helmets,” a police source said.
Sources said bikers were now hiring helmets to enter pumps.
The owner of a tea shop near Siliguri More on NH34 explained the hiring method. “After the ‘No Helmet No Petrol’ rule came into force, we started renting out helmets at Rs 5 a turn. But during police drives against helmet-less riders, we rent out helmets at Rs 20,” he said.
Another eatery owner said he had two helmets and he rent them out at least seven times a day. “Some youths even keep helmets in my shop, which is near a petrol pump, and take those only when they want petrol,” he said.
Police sources said there were around 4,000 motorcycles in town and the fine for riding one without a helmet was Rs 100.
Most youths said wearing helmets “ruined their style”. Debashis Das, who works in a private firm, said: “My friends and I have never worn helmets and we feel that it ruins our hairstyle. I have a helmet and I know about the safety aspect. Many of us are now hiring helmets to buy petrol.”
Another youth said: “Some of our friends wear helmets and we borrow those in exchange of a cigarette or a paan.”
Gour Datta, the vice-president of the North Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association, said he and the other members took part in road-safety campaigns. “But young people do not wear helmets. Some youths have been threatening pump staff and we have heard that some have even assaulted attendants for not selling petrol to them. We can’t risk our safety trying to implement a government order. We have asked the police chief to deploy at least one policeman in each of the eight petrol pumps in and around town,” Datta said.
A pump attendant said: “We are facing regular threats. Some people even shove and push us when we refuse them petrol for not wearing helmets.”
Amit Kumar Bharat Rathod, North Dinajpur police superintendent, said plainclothes policemen would be deployed near petrol pumps to keep tabs on errant bikers. “We will ensure that there is no untoward incident,” he said.