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Hold rally, hold up transport
- Traffic-stopper protest points preferred

If Metro Channel doesn't get you, Rani Rashmoni Avenue will. On Friday afternoon, the stretch opposite Metro cinema did not prove disruptive but the other protest point nearby played traffic-stopper.

If the cause was the police firing at Kalinganagar in Orissa, the effect was weekday traffic being reduced to a crawl in Calcutta's heart.

The street in the city centre was the stage on Friday and the protagonists were CPM leaders like state secretary Anil Biswas, party chairman Biman Bose and others.

With the makeshift stage blocking the entire southern flank and around 3,000 tribals camping on the stretch for two hours, all that the police could do was put up no-entry boards and minimise disruption.

But the traffic snarl on Rani Rashmoni Avenue spilled over to Esplanade and Chittaranjan Avenue, setting car movement on slow motion.

Friday's traffic trouble capped a week of three disruptive protest meetings ' one at Metro Channel and two at Rani Rashmoni Avenue ' forcing Calcuttans trapped in the traffic maze to ask: Why can't such congregations be confined to the third designated site, Shahid Minar' That would, after all, be far less disruptive to weekday traffic in the central business district.

'We had repeatedly suggested to the organisers of Friday's meeting that they shift the venue to Shahid Minar. They were told how a rally on Rani Rashmoni Avenue creates chaos on the roads leading to Esplanade. But, unfortunately, the leaders refused to pay any heed to our requests,' said a senior officer at Lalbazar police headquarters.

'We always request political parties and other organisations to choose Shahid Minar for their meetings, but their first choice is Rani Rashmoni Avenue and then Metro Channel,' he added.

With both police and public plagued by the twin protest sites off Esplanade, why can't these be made off-limits for rallies and meetings'

Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner of police (traffic), said: 'Meetings are allowed on those spots because these are mentioned in an affidavit submitted by the government in high court. But it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to handle traffic disruptions in such an important part of the city. We are pressing for a rethink.'

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