The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spare road, punish Maidan
- Buddha suggests traffic remedy worse than slowdown malady

On a day when his government was busy preparing the roadmap to slam the brakes on Bharat Stage-II and his party insisted that it had little to do for the mess on the Maidan, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday sounded the alarm over the chaos corridor called Calcutta.

“Every day, about six million pedestrians use the roads, 900,000 vehicles ply the streets, of which 55,000 are heavy vehicles. The traffic situation is alarming,” he pointed out.

“We are considering proposals to take the help of the private sector to manage the traffic in Calcutta. I have already met several chambers of commerce and discussed the problem with them,” Bhattacharjee said in the Assembly, in reply to Debaprasad Sarkar of the Suci.

Bhattacharjee also made it clear that “meetings and rallies”, organised by several political parties in the city’s central business district on working days, made traffic management quite impossible.

“We have specifically earmarked two spots — Brigade Parade Ground and Shahid Minar — for holding political meetings and rallies. But I often notice some political parties holding meetings in front of Metro cinema and Victoria House, causing a traffic standstill. This must be stopped. Any political party wishing to hold a rally must go to either Brigade or Shahid Minar,” he said.

How this is going to cause less chaos was left unsaid, given the fact that rallyists passing through the city centre would, anyway, disrupt traffic, before trampling the greens.

The chief minister called for a coming-together of industry, government, political parties, institutions and individuals to do something about the traffic situation “before it is too late” and reiterated the need for a consensus on stopping rallies on roads.

“I will seek opinions from all quarters and explain to them the problem faced by the government in managing the traffic due to such meetings and rallies. After I receive all the inputs, I will take a serious step with regard to holding of political rallies in the city,” he warned.

Bhattacharjee also mentioned roadblocks set up by bystanders and residents of an area after an accident.

“Political parties often encourage such a blockade,” he said, referring to a recent incident near Hazra, where Trinamul Congress activists had blocked the road to protest a mishap death. “Such an act by a political party does not help the police in managing the problem.”

Bolstering his traffic-chaos claim with statistics, Bhattacharjee informed the House that 1,600 people had died in Bengal in road accidents between October 2002 and January 2003. In 2001, 1,736 persons had died in road accidents in Bengal.

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