The Trinamool Congress’ rally Tuesday brought life to a standstill in Central Kolkata with the traffic thrown out of gear in several adjoining parts of the city. As a result, commuters were not very happy.
A senior employee of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) said that he had to cover 20 times the normal distance to reach the office building from the Esplanade five-point crossing. The distance is barely 100 metres.
“I stood in front of the K C Das’ sweet shop helplessly. The policemen would not let me pass even though the road looked relatively empty,” he said.
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Most shopkeepers in Chowringhee kept their shutters down throughout the day. Altaf Hossain, accountant at one of the popular garments’ shop, said he had seen the gathering (at TMC’s July 21 rally) in previous years, but the situation this time “looked worse”. “They have placed huge LEDs on the arterial roads so places such as Lenin Sarani and the Y Channel, from where there is no direct view of the stage, were also crowded as people watched their leaders being televised live on the giant screens.
Usually, it takes me 30 minutes but thanks to the absence of public vehicles, it took me over an hour to reach Esplanade and then another 30 minutes to reach my office,” he said.
Hours after the meeting was over, hundreds of commuters returning from work were seen stranded at Esplanade with no public transport in sight. Sudipta Sinha Roy, who was waiting with her two-year-old child for a bus to Sealdah, said, “The few buses that are plying are so crowded that I could not board one with my child,” she said.
Heads of different transport associations admitted that there were fewer modes of transport available on Tuesday.
“Of the 7,000 odd buses that ply in Kolkata and the adjoining areas, only around 400 were operating today. On routes such as 44 (from Baguiati to Howrah), 217 (Chetla to Howrah) and 230 (Kamarhati to Alipore Zoo), not a single bus was on road. Most of the bus workers were part of the rally owing to their affinity to the TMC-backed unions,” said Tapan Banerjee, joint secretary, Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.
Mini buses, too, were not many in number. “Of the 2,500, over 1,500 had been kept off the road and some 200 were used in ferrying TMC supporters,” said Abashesh Daw, the general secretary of the Minibus Operators’ Coordination Committee.
Bimal Kumar Guha, general secretary, Bengal Taxi Association, said that between 11 am and 4 pm, there were about 20 per cent fewer taxis seen on road.
Lalbazar authorities said that there was “some inconvenience” but the traffic department did well to maintain traffic despite most vehicles being used in ferrying TMC workers. “There was some logjam which is normal but we managed to keep the traffic circulation well,” said V Solomon Nesakumar, DC (traffic).