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Calcutta at the crossroads: cops round the corner to collar and caution jaywalkers

THE GOOD: Day I of the jaywalk spot-fine jamboree at five critical crossroads stopped Calcuttans of every hue in their tracks. Most meekly paid up the token fine on Monday, embarrassed to find themselves in the spotlight for stepping out of line. From BBD Bag (right) to Park Street, pedestrians were stopped, sermonised and slapped a fine.

Those like Dilip Somani, of RN Mukherjee Road, took the rap in the right spirit. Intercepted by inspector Moti Singh at the crossing of Park Street and Chowringhee, he apologised, paid a fine of Rs 5 and even complimented the police for a job well begun.

Like all roadshows in the city, crowds flocked to watch the cops in action.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD: Not everyone took kindly to the cop drive. State Bank of India employee S. Bose, intercepted at the same crossing for the same offence, paid the fine but threatened inspector Singh with a “dekhe nebo”.

Others played innocent to wriggle out of the road-rule trap. Two girls, one of them with a mobile glued to her ear (right), weaved in and out of the traffic to cross the road in front of the trade fair on the Maidan. When hauled up by the policemen, they claimed they were unaware of the “new rules”.

Cops took heart and let them off, but not before pointing out that the rules were not “new” and their next jaywalk would cost them Rs 50.

THE BAD: An advocate was stopped in front of the GPO. When he demanded to know why, he was told of his crime and asked to cough up Rs 2. Drawing out a Rs 50 note, the advocate started railing against the chief minister. “Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee can’t take care of the pavements, but he has the temerity to fine us for walking on the road... The cash-strapped government just wants to fill its coffers with tax-payers’ money, and what better way to do it than the spot fines on the streets'” he thundered.

Police encountered sporadic arguments and protests from a few pedestrians throughout the day, but not many dared refuse to pay the spot fine.

THE INCORRIGIBLE: For every pedestrian caught in the jaywalking act, more than one got away scot-free, simply by picking the right spot and the right moment.

At BBD Bag, for instance, the traffic-stopper lady, in the picture left, steered clear of the zebra crossing, where the cops were keeping watch, and zig-zagged her way through the stream of cars, quintessential Calcutta style.

By the end of the day, the cop count read: 139 guilty pedestrians from five points (Park Street-Chowringhee: 22; Park Street-Camac Street: 21; Mayo Road-Dufferin Road: 28; Government Place West-KS Roy Road: 15; BBD Bag, in front of GPO: 53.

Pictures by Amit Datta

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