JUST ANOTHER DAY: A rally by municipal workers chokes Chowringhee on Friday afternoon. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)
If politicians have been relentless in choking Calcutta, Metro has been steadfast in its mission to rid the city centre of rallies.
Calcutta High Court said on Thursday that rallies at Metro Channel did inconvenience people and stressed the need for guidelines on alternative venues where such gatherings could be organised.
The bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and Justice Shukla Kabir Sinha said: “There should be clear guidelines for the police (on) where it can allow the rallies and where not. Before making such guidelines, the opinion of each and every important political party on this issue should be heard by the court.”
With the rally-ban call reaching the high court, Metro highlights the reasons why it believes the heart of the city must be spared.
Metro Channel and the adjacent RR Avenue are blocked for at least 300 days a year, according to the traffic department.
All major political parties and their mass organisations. Even fringe outfits, which neither have any political affiliation nor support base, use a makeshift dais and a few plastic chairs to hold the city to ransom.
All political parties admit that rallies do inconvenience people, but hold them on the pretext of “reaching out to the people”.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose had said on the eve of a seven-day disruption at Metro Channel: “I know people will be inconvenienced but what can we do? It is our party programme.”
Following an appeal by an 11-year-old reader of The Telegraph to withdraw a rally on Christmas eve, Mamata Banerjee had said: “Don’t lecture us. We will do what we have to.”
Metro stood at four Esplanade intersections for several hours on a rally day in November and found that over 24,192 commuters were affected every hour.
If the number of people who somehow manage to avoid rally-day Esplanade are added, the number climbs to several lakhs.
On December 28, Metro drove to Esplanade from four directions and calculated how long it took on a normal day and on a rally day. The findings?
From Howrah Bridge
Any day: 35 minutes
Rally day: 65 minutes
From Park Circus
Any day: 27 minutes
Rally day: 68 minutes
Any day: 26 minutes
Rally day: 65 minutes
From MG Road
Any day: 25 minutes
Rally day: 50 minutes
BAD IN LAW
As the police cannot legally allow a rally that blocks a road, the political parties simply make a phone call to ensure there isn’t a clash of dates between rivals and land up at the city centre.
That is what Mamata had flaunted on December 23 when she told a gathering: “We are holding the rally with permission.”
It is said to be an exercise of a democratic right. The ordinary citizen’s right to free movement can take a walk.
On January 5, Metro had suggested three alternatives to Metro Channel for rallies, keeping in mind concerns about traffic as well as the city’s dwindling greenery — a patch between the East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting grounds, a plot adjacent to the HRBC office at Hastings and a plot at Kalikapur, off the EM Bypass.
Sources in the police headquarters say Metro Channel and RR Avenue are nearly “full” on all days till February 23, when the court’s ban on use of microphones comes into effect because of the secondary examinations.
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