The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puja spirit beats snarls, showers

Calcutta, Oct. 12: Short bursts of rain this afternoon threatened to dampen revellers’ festive spirit and brought in its wake huge traffic snarls as a “skeleton” police force struggled to control surging crowds on major thoroughfares on Mahasaptami.

The Alipore meteorological office has forecast more rain and thunderstorms on Ashtami and Navami. “A low pressure area, originating from the north-west bay, is behind the sudden showers. There is a slight chance of the trough line clearing within 48 hours, bringing more rain in the next two days,” met office director K.K. Chakraborty said.

Rain lashed Esplanade, Behala, Jadavpur, Salt Lake and parts of north and central Calcutta. A few hundred policemen on duty were caught off-guard by the sudden showers that threw traffic off gear from Kasba in the south to Shyamabazar in the north.

Teams of a traffic sergeant assisted by six to seven policemen were posted at major intersections as Calcuttans began pandal-hopping from early morning.

Still, traffic flow was hampered as people parked cars near major intersections, ignoring norms laid by the police.

“What can we do when people flout every traffic norm' They do not seem to understand the value of discipline,” said deputy commissioner of police (traffic) M.K. Singh, referring to the chaotic jams caused along Rash Behari Avenue.

With 2,500 traffic policemen and an additional 1,500 personnel from the headquarters at Lalbazar scheduled to be deployed across the city from 4 pm, police had no option but to tackle the traffic problem with the help of only a few hundred policemen this morning.

“We do not have any choice as the 4,000 policemen, who would be on duty all night, need some rest during the day. The swelling crowd from early morning has upset our calculations,” Singh added.

Just when police thought they were bringing things under control, the police control room received an SOS from Kasba, where policemen were finding it difficult to regulate crowd movement. The situation was the same at Bosepukur and Jadavpur along parts of EM Bypass as some vehicles forcibly tried to take the Rash Behari connector. Vehicles got stuck in the rain, making the policemen’s job more difficult. “We have decided not to let cars enter the connector from the bypass to avoid traffic jams,” Singh said.

Vehicles stood bumper-to-bumper on C.R. Avenue from 10 am till late in the afternoon as revellers surged towards Md Ali Park, a crowd-puller, amid incessant rain. “The rain made things extremely difficult for us as the visitors tried to break the barricades to save themselves from rain,” said a traffic sergeant near Md Ali around 1 pm. The situation forced the DC (traffic) to deploy 25-odd special traffic trouble-shooters on motorcycles.

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