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Fest-eve safety buzz
- Retail addresses beef up vigil; feisty footfall in Diwali, Id last lap

The serial blasts in Delhi failed to dampen the shopping spirits of Calcutta, which gathered steam on a sun-drenched Sunday in the final run-in to the triple festival of Dhanteras, Diwali and Id.

People flocked to every retail rendezvous in town, even as city police alerted all its 48 stations and four divisional commissioners, besides deploying additional personnel at vital installations and crowded places.

The threat perception and overall security situation was reviewed on Saturday at a late-night conclave attended by the police commissioner, divisional commissioners, assistant commissioners and joint commissioners at Lalbazar.

But fears were swept away by feisty footfall as the city refused to stay indoors two days before the Festival of Lights. 'Yes, walk-ins were up at least 25 per cent compared with last weekend,' confirmed Ujjal, general manager of Forum on Elgin Road. Gariahaat Mall CEO Kishor Sanghani agreed there was no negative impact over the Delhi explosions. 'We even opened our food court today,' he said.

Shops in Burrabazar, Posta, Canning Street, Kalakar Street, KK Tagore Street, New Market, Free School Street and Gariahat also did brisk business. Around Nakhoda Masjid and Tipu Sultan Mosque, in Rajabazar and Mominpur, Id sales were on in full swing in the evening.

Security chiefs of shopping malls and representatives of various markets were called to Lalbazar for a meeting on Sunday and requested to immediately inform the police if they spotted any unclaimed object or suspicious movement of people. 'If we receive information on time, we can try and avoid untoward incidents,' said Harmanpreet Singh, deputy inspector-general of police (Presidency range).

Police worked in tandem with formatted retail malls to beef up built-in security as well. At City Centre, in Salt Lake, a contingent of 20 personnel led by the SDPO moved in from the Bidhannagar (North) police station after news of the Delhi explosions filtered through on Saturday evening.

The mall increased vigilance in the parking area and high-density zones like INOX and Hangout, the food court. Entry of goods vehicles was restricted and undercarriage inspection mirrors were being brought in, while 'high-powered PTZ cameras with zoom option' were scouring open areas, according to CEO Vineet Verma.

At Forum, uniformed personnel from Bhowanipore police station helped the mall security guards carry out metal-detector checks and frisking at roadside entry points. The Elgin Road address has a hi-tech, built-in surveillance system, including cameras, that are on seven-day recording mode.

'After yesterday's Delhi blasts, we are now trying to scan all baggage, including our own garbage trucks and delivery cartons,' the general manager added.

Vigilance was the watchword at 22, Camac Street, too. 'We have instructed our shop-floor staff to be extra mindful of unclaimed bags or parcels, while civil-dress security patrol has been intensified on all the floors,' said Manish Agarwal, regional manager (East), Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd.

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