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Full stop for traffic-stop twins
- Court slaps shift order on popular pandals

One was made of broken records; the other used sugarcane. Together, they were two of Calcutta’s largest crowd-pulling and traffic-stopping pujas last year. This October, however, they will not be around at all — at least not on the Rashbehari Avenue-EM Bypass connector.

A Calcutta High Court order on Friday asked Bosepukur Talbagan Sarbajonin Durgotsab Committee (of broken-records fame) to shift from its present location, prompting it to call off Durga Puja 2003. The administration, armed with the clear-out verdict, said Bosepukur Sitala Mandir Sarbajonin Durgotsab Committee (sugarcane, preceded by earthen cups), too, would not be allowed to erect a pandal at the same spot.

With Bosepukur Talbagan and Bosepukur Sitala Mandir drawing in the crowds from the city and beyond, the thoroughfare connecting Rashbehari Avenue and the EM Bypass had become “unmanageable” during the past few pujas. This had prompted the Kasba police to deny puja permission to both organising committees and urge them to shift to the Rajdanga Club Samanway Committee ground, a few kilometres away.

Organisers of the Talbagan Puja moved court last month against the “unfair” police order. “Why should we go to another neighbourhood for our puja'” the club demanded. Besides, the puja was organised on a private plot, belonging to a member of the club, and the police had no right to interfere, it added.

When Justice Pinaki Ghose, on September 4, said he could not act against a puja on private land, organisers of both the pujas stepped up pandal construction. The administration then appealed to a division bench comprising Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A.K. Bannerjee. “The pujas have now been asked to shift out as they were holding up traffic on a vital thoroughfare,” said government pleader Rabilal Maitra. “All vehicles, including airport-bound ones, were held up last year,” he told the bench, adding that even ambulances were left stranded in the snarl.

Jaydeep Kar, representing Talbagan, maintained that the stretch would continue to suffer traffic jams. “The puja organisers helped police manage traffic and ease the snarls,” he added. The bench, however, overruled the earlier single-bench order, and backed the police position. Officials said on Friday evening that the semi-constructed pandals of both pujas would be demolished within a day.

“There are so many pujas that block thoroughfares and traffic (see box). Why don’t the police act against them'” demanded Subhendu Ghosh, a Talbagan spokesperson.

Calcutta Police deputy commissioner (headquarters), Kuldiep Singh, admitted there were several pujas within Calcutta Police jurisdiction that also drew large crowds causing traffic snarls. “The Bosepukur pujas fall under the West Bengal Police jurisdiction and they have decided not to allow them,” Singh said. “We shall take stricter measures next year on puja locations and crowd control.”

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