Five days after state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty blamed the police for the chaotic traffic in the city (despite their “fleet of cars, walkie-talkies and manpower”), chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee gave his force a clean chit, on home turf.
Bhattacharjee, under whose home department the police force functions, chose Tuesday’s open conference, organised by the CPM-controlled Calcutta Police Association, for his pep-talk .
He blamed the chaos on the city streets on the combined “indiscipline” of drivers and pedestrians. “With buses stopping in the middle of the road and people running to cross busy streets, it is difficult to maintain traffic discipline,” he said.
Expressing confidence that the situation could be improved “within our limitations”, chief minister Bhattacharjee said certain plans had been drawn up to streamline traffic.
“I will go into the details at a conference of police and transport department officials,” he added, before directing commissioner of police Sujoy Chakraborty to coordinate with the transport department to fix up a date for that meeting.
The chief minister also promised a modern hospital for policemen and policewomen, more living quarters and withdrawal of taxes on allowances.
With transport being the prime focus and turning the tables on critics the dominant mood, Bhattacharjee’s officers picked up the baton at Lalbazar.
Sujoy Chakraborty, in a direct reference to the transport minister’s carping a few days ago, said Calcutta Police had only 28 cars at its disposal, in comparison to the hundreds in Delhi and Mumbai. Police in other metros had double the number of walkie-talkies and men, claimed the police commissioner. “I feel we have performed satisfactorily under the circumstances,” he asserted.
Deputy commissioner of police (traffic) M.K. Singh later said his department had prepared a white paper on city traffic.