Jagruti Viraj Hogale, a well-known woman biker, was on her way to a weekend getaway with her friends to Jawhar — known for its waterfalls — when she swerved to allegedly avoid a pothole, was thrown off her bike, and crushed to death under the rear wheels of a truck on the Jawhar-Dahanu highway in Maharashtra. For the 34-year-old biker's grieving family, the main culprit is in plain sight.
Viraj, her husband, told Mid-day newspaper that he blamed the authorities, not the truck driver, for what happened. "Three days ago, I had taken the same route on my way to Gujarat. The entire road is ridden with potholes," he said. Viraj's comment added to the raging debate around Mumbai's civic infrastructure and the Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation's defensive victimization of a popular radio jockey who parodied it in a viral song about Mumbai's pot-holed roads.
Maharashtra Public Works Minister Chandrakant Patil yesterday claimed: "The road on which she was riding was water-logged and had become muddy and slippery. Her motorcycle slipped and she fell down. A truck which was behind hit her, killing her instantly. The accident did not take place due to potholes."
The point that Patil completely missed is that obviously the pothole didn't kill Jagruti — rank apathy by civic officials did.
The point that Patil completely missed is that obviously the pothole didn't kill Jagruti — rank apathy by civic officials did. By Patil's own admission, the road was water-logged, which should not be the case for a busy highway on which trucks ply.
On Saturday, a former television news reader with Doordarshan succumbed to her injuries, three days after a tree fell on her in Chembur. According to reports, the Kurla Road residents at Chembur East had repeatedly complained to the BMC about the tree, but no action had been taken.
Instead of heeding to residents' complaints, the BMC instead sent officers twice to the home of RJ Malishka Mendonsa and slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on her for defaming the corporation with her Pothole Song.
However, the Mumbai police's observation after Jagruti's death is a classic example of victim-blaming and shifting of responsibilities. A case has now been registered against her for negligent driving because she allegedly tried to overtake a truck near Vaiti village, 100 km from Mumbai.
"Had she swerved to the right, she probably could have been saved as she was wearing a helmet."
But it does not end there.
"We registered a case under section 304 (a) (negligent driving) against Hogale. She should have shown better judgement while riding her bike. Had she swerved to the right, she probably could have been saved as she was wearing a helmet," Kasa assistant police inspector Jayprakash Gute told Hindustan Times.
It needs to be mentioned here that Jagruti was a member of the women-only Bikerni Motorcycle Club and had extensive riding experience, including several trips to Leh and Ladakh. Viraj made it clear that Jagruti always followed safety measures when riding her bike. "She was a safe rider. The accident took place because she hadn't seen the pothole," he told Mid-day.
The biker leaves a nine-year-old son behind.