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Rally siege of Calcutta

Calcutta, Jan. 12: The city could not move on Sunday.

The CPM’s rally on Brigade Parade grounds might have been good for the party health but, for Calcutta, it was everything the doctor did not order.

As buses, trucks and cars stood bumper-to-bumper in most of central Calcutta, those cursing Calcutta’s fallback to its favourite pastime — the michhil — included the sick and those with a flight or train to catch.

The situation was particularly bad at Chowringhee, on Central Avenue, Dharamtala Street, S.N. Banerjee Road, Park Street, Theatre Road, Lower Circular Road, Red Road, Hospital Road, Lovers’ Lane, Casuarina Avenue, Strand Road, Brabourne Road, Park Circus and the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. Traffic barely moved here between 2 and 5 pm, said deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh.

Officials said the problem was compounded because some people — obviously with entertainment on their mind — left the rally midway. As thousands continued to stream in, an equal number made their way out, making things “very difficult” for the traffic minders on the road, officials said.

At least five ambulances — on their way to the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital — were stranded at Esplanade between 2.30 and 4 pm, officials said. Two were carrying patients in a serious condition, they added. The Telegraph spotted one of them (WB-02/G-9553), with an elderly patient inside, at Chowringhee in front of Metro cinema hall at 4 pm. Hemmed in by buses and trucks, the driver could do little.

More ambulances were stranded on Red Road and Park Street, a traffic control room official said. “We tried to get them going but did not succeed,” he added.

The road to the airport was clogged, forcing several people to miss their afternoon and evening flights. “I did not realise that things would be so bad. I have tried every available road, lane and bylane to reach VIP road from Harish Mukherjee Road,” said a frustrated Sandip Sen, whose brother was to catch an evening flight to Delhi. They were stranded on Park Street.

Two visitors from Delhi, Indrani Singh and Anu Handa, said things were “maddening”. “How can the government even think of bringing in investors when the party in power deliberately chokes an entire city,” the latter said, adding she could not imagine “a complete breakdown” in any other metro.

Things were not better under the ground. The usual Sunday skeletal staff turned up to man Metro Railway and found themselves swamped — by hordes of Gangasagar-bound pilgrims and rallyists out for a joyride. Service at many stations came to a halt around 4 pm.

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