| The driver of a police van catches forty winks as twin rallies choke the heart of the city. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
It was Chhatra Parishad, the student's wing of the state Congress, at one end and the SUCI-supported All Bengal Electricity Consumers' Association at the other. The common casualty: mid-day traffic on Thursday in the central business district.
A CPM meeting on July 19, the Trinamul Congress martyr's day on July 21, the Santan Dal rally on July 24, the Primary Teachers' Training Institute michhil on July 26, the Chhatra Parishad-All Bengal Electricity Consumers' Association double whammy on July 27 ' all in a day's work for a police force struggling to keep the traffic flowing in rally city.
'Rallies and processions are out on the streets almost all 365-days in a year, and our task is to try and work out diversions so that traffic disruption is minimised. This seems to be a daily ritual,' said Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner of police (traffic).
The solitary exception in this long list of recent traffic-stopper protests was the Santan Dal rally on Monday. For, the very next day, the cops swung into action and slapped cases ' in three police stations ' against the rallyists for obstructing traffic and more.
For all the other rallies, police followed the tried-and-tested 'take-it-easy' policy ' as was evident from men in uniform just hanging around or even catching a cat nap on Thursday afternoon while the twin rallies choked BB Ganguly Street, SN Banerjee Road, Phears Lane and Central Avenue.
What made these rallyists less culpable than the 700-odd who turned out for Santan Dal on July 24'
Pradip Bhattacharya, working president of the state Congress, said: 'I personally spoke to the deputy commissioner (headquarters) and the Chhatra Parishad also submitted a letter informing the police about today's procession.'
Swapan Chatterjee, secretary of All Bengal Electricity Consumers' Association, added: 'We wrote a letter to the police, informing them about the rally. We also sought permission to use microphones. So, we don't apprehend any police action against us.'
Police officers, on condition of anonymity, said rallies backed by political parties 'never care' about taking permission and always enjoy right of way.
'Why blame us' These are policy decisions taken at the top. We are just here to maintain law and order and minimise car chaos,' said a traffic constable on duty on Chittaranjan Avenue on Thursday afternoon.