The dais in front of AMRI Hospitals that was shifted. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress shifted a rally dais from a hospital zone by a token 20 metres on Wednesday, sending a message to rivals who don’t budge an inch but making little difference to the common man.
The decision to shift the dais built in front of Salt Lake’s AMRI Hospitals for Thursday’s rally against land acquisition in Rajarhat-New Town was taken in response to a notice served by the subdivisional officer of Bidhannagar, citing inconvenience to people visiting the hospital.
So while the structure right in front of the hospital was dismantled, a three-tier replacement came up simultaneously near the Hidco office barely 20 metres away, blocking an entire flank of the road connecting the EM Bypass with Karunamoyee.
In a city where exponents of street politics have never been known to bother about such administrative notices, the shift is seen as a climbdown even within sections of the Trinamul Congress. But for those who will visit the hospital on rally day, the scope for disruption hasn’t diminished a bit.
“Don’t the leaders know that there are hospitals here? Couldn’t they have held the meeting elsewhere?” demanded Jiten Mallik, a Burdwan resident whose wife has been undergoing treatment at AMRI since Monday.
Thursday’s meeting is scheduled to start at 1pm and continue for at least four hours. “We will mobilise 1.5 lakh people. Our fight for the farmers whose land has been taken away forcibly will continue,” declared Gaighata MLA Jyotipriya Mallick, the organiser-in-chief of the rally.
Relatives of hundreds of patients admitted to AMRI will bear the brunt of the disruption, struggling to reach the hospital in time for the 4.30pm-6.30pm visiting hours.
“We are very apprehensive,” said a senior AMRI official. “We have been promised passage for ambulances but you can imagine what will happen if 1.5 lakh people actually turn up. Both flanks of the road will get blocked,” he added.
Rally raj had so far spared Salt Lake and the adjoining Sector V, with traffic-stopper meetings restricted to the heart of the city. Many in Sector V fear that Thursday’s rally could be the beginning of a trend of disruption in the tech hub.
A police officer said the security deployment for the rally would be double of that for an East Bengal-Mohun Bagan football match at the Salt Lake stadium. Trinamul leaders of North 24-Parganas promised “not to block the road” but admitted that they could do little if the crowd count hit 1.5 lakh.
On the top deck of the dais will be the Trinamul leadership. A member each from 100 families of “unwilling farmers” will be on the next tier.
The lower tier is meant for alleged “victims of CPM atrocities” from North 24-Parganas.
By evening, loudspeakers adorned the light-posts till the Salt Lake Stadium island, across which is another hospital, Columbia Asia.
Some Trinamul leaders suggested that the programme was a scaled-down version of what was originally planned because Mamata didn’t want to be seen as disruptive. “It is no longer a siege to the Hidco headquarters (as threatened earlier) but a bikkhobh (protest),” said a leader, clarifying that it was not aimed at IT giants eyeing Rajarhat,
Wipro chief Azim Premji, who was in town on Wednesday, met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. IT minister Debesh Das later said Wipro would start work on its second campus in Rajarhat “as soon as possible” and the facility would accommodate “another 20,000 employees”.