Slow traffic movement, congested footpaths, accident-prone roads, police-politician-hoodlum nexus and administrative apathy have become the bane of Burrabazar, Calcutta's central business district.
According to a section of traders in Burrabazar, efficient traffic management and smooth pedestrian and vehicular movement seem to have eluded the area, resulting in utter chaos.
'The authorities, both of the state government and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, earn the largest chunk of taxes from Burrabazar's trading community, yet nothing is being done to alleviate our condition. Given the nature of our trades, speed in terms of transportation, loading and unloading of goods and clearing up of the area is a priority. But moving through Burrabazar remains a time-consuming and unsafe ordeal,' said Amit Kumar Pandey, joint general secretary of Burrabazar Nagarik Front.
Traffic in the area, spanning Posta, Phoolmandi, CR Avenue, Lalbazar, Jagannath Ghat and the approach road to Howrah bridge, has been a long-standing problem for people passing through Brabourne Road, Rabindra Sarani, Strand Road and Mahatma Gandhi Road.
While lorries, taxis, Matadors and vans crowd the main roads, slow-moving vehicles like cycle-vans and carts clog the side-streets. It often takes more than half-an-hour to cross the two-km stretch.
'A couple of days ago, pedestrian Biswanath Das was run over by a minibus at the intersection of Brabourne Road and Jackson Lane. He died at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. Such accidents have become far too common for comfort. Not every mishap victim dies ' most are maimed for life and forced to accept a hopeless existence with no way to provide for their families,' affirmed trader Prakash Singh.
Operators of angadia services add to the traffic chaos. They illegally bring in goods packed in gunnysacks by train and load them on Calcutta-bound passenger buses at Howrah station. The buses drop the sack on the road while passing Burrabazar.
According to Pandey, repeated appeals to the local police station have yielded no result. 'There is a nexus among police, political leaders and local hoodlums that is frustrating all efforts to improve the situation,' he alleged.
Amiya Kumar Lahiri, officer-in-charge of Burrabazar police station, said: 'This is a very busy area and we have limited personnel, so we concentrate our efforts on curbing crime, leaving the management of pedestrian and vehicular movement to the traffic police. However, early every day, we pick up a number of operators of slow-moving vehicles from the area.'
'The number of personnel we can deploy in the area is not adequate,' a senior officer attached to the Howrah bridge traffic guard said.