Goods vehicles parked illegally on BT Road. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
BT Road has turned into a parking lot for large and small goods vehicles, narrowing the thoroughfare and slowing down traffic movement. Even the stretches where the ongoing work for widening the road has been finished, the illegally parked vehicles have gobbled up the new portion.
The work for widening BT Road started early in 2008 and will be completed by this year-end. “The plan is to make it a six-lane road, 25 to 28 metres wide,” said Kshiti Goswami, the PWD minister. That means doubling the width of the thoroughfare from its present 14 metres.
“The work has finished on the stretch from Bonhooghly to Dunlop crossing, and work is on from Rathtala to Sodepur. The plan is to widen the road till Barrackpore Chiria More,” explained Goswami.
When Metro travelled the stretch from Bonhooghly to Dunlop flyover, small and large vehicles were seen parked on the widened stretch. It took 15 minutes to cross the 500-metre stretch.
Akhil Banerjee, waiting at the crossroad to catch a bus, summed up the commuter mood: “We are ready to bear with the daily traffic snarls while the road is being widened, but can the administration assure us that the parked vehicles won’t be allowed to hog the road after the work is completed? Otherwise, what is the point of widening it?”
There is a designated parking space for goods vehicles near Barrackpore but the drivers, hand in greasy palm with the police, do not park there to avoid the parking fee.
“The Dunlop crossing is such a busy one, if the goods vehicles are parked here like this, traffic jams can never be eased,” grumbled Banerjee.
A local shopowner told Metro that the goods vehicles start coming to the “parking lot” from 8pm. “They are loaded with sand. They wait here till some builders come in and strike a deal. After that they leave with the builder,” he said.
From Bonhooghly onwards, vehicles were seen parked on the main road. On the stretch from Bonhooghly, lining the boundary walls of the Indian Statistical Institute, work for sewerage lines was on. “The portion that has been dug up was originally the pavement and so the road space has shrunk, but the goods vehicles are even parked on the narrowed stretch. Can someone spare a thought for the pedestrian?” wondered one, after doing a hop-skip-jump to negotiate the stretch.
Pedestrians at the Dunlop crossing are also forced to take a perilous path. “I have never seen any pavement here, and now with the goods vehicles parked there, we are forced to walk on the main road. Are the cops waiting for a major accident to happen before they act?” asked Subrata De, a resident of the area.
When Metro asked a senior officer of North 24-Parganas police why no action was being taken, he seemed unaware of the illegal parking problem. “But I assure you that action will be taken and we will ensure that vehicles do not park illegally on BT Road. As far as I know, BT Road is a no-parking zone,” he said.
“These vehicles wait on the main road as movement of goods vehicles is restricted in Calcutta from 8am to 9pm. But that does not mean they can park on BT Road,” he added.
But why have the police turned a blind eye to the BT Road problem for so long? He pleaded helplessness citing a number crunch: “We have 320 personnel in our traffic department against the sanctioned strength of 500.”