| The helper of a truck drinks water to beat the heat while his vehicle is stuck in the traffic snarl on Mahatma Gandhi Setu in Patna on Tuesday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Patna, Aug. 30: What commuters along Mahatma Gandhi Setu prayed they wouldn’t have to go through has returned to haunt them — the snaking, ever-lasting traffic snarls.
The decision of the police administration to remove Bihar Military Police (BMP) personnel from the bridge has backfired, as was evident from a tedious snarl that choked the 5.575-km-long bridge for hours today. Truck drivers as well as commuters on buses and autorickshaws were stuck for hours. The soaring temperature — the maximum hit 34.6°C — and humidity added to their misery.
Sources said the snarls had started before sunrise. It had not cleared till late evening. Only a handful of traffic constables and district police personnel were deployed to manage the situation. They failed miserably.
Rajeshwar Kumar, a truck driver stuck in the snarl, said: “I crossed Didarganj bridge at 3am and reached Zero Mile at 11am. The distance between the two places is 2km only. The heat and humidity are just unbearable.”
He added that he was carrying a consignment of fish that could have rotted because of the long wait. “This is such a loss,” he said.
Nandu Sah, another truck driver, said trucks trying to overtake each other could have caused the snarl. “At night, many of the trucks were trying to overtake each other. That could have caused the snarl. This is so frustrating. I am very tired but I can’t sleep. If I doze off, it could lead to more chaos.”
Traffic constables, in-charge of clearing the snarls, were a confused lot. “We are not really sure what caused the snarl today. Things were absolutely perfect for a number of days. But vehicles are moving very slowly today.”
A contingent BMP personnel, comprising deputy superintendent of police-rank officer, five inspectors and 100 BMP constables had been deputed along the bridge to ensure the smooth flow of traffic, three months ago. However, they were removed from duty on August 24 on the order of deputy inspector-general (central range) Vineet Vinayak, who was appointed nodal officer for the regulation of smooth running of vehicles along the bridge.
Vinayak had said the withdrawal order was based on the fact that the movement of vehicles along the bridge was almost normal now. “The removal of officers will not pose a problem,” he said.
The very next day, however, traffic rules went for a toss with many pedestrians and motorists violating the regulations. The Telegraph reported this in its August 26, 2011, edition. With only a handful of traffic policemen and officials from the district police on guard at the bridge, the horrors of the past appeared to return to haunt commuters. Heavy vehicles began overtaking one another at will realising that there were not enough policemen present to clamp the fine of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000.
Vehicles revived their lost art of rash driving and overtaking and sundry buses too rediscovered theirs: that of stopping in the middle of the bridge to pick up passengers.
Commuters, too, had appeared pleased at the lack of discipline. One of them said: “The deputation of so many policemen had meant that buses refused to stop in the middle of the bridge. This was a problem for us. Now that they are gone, we can expect things to be easy.” Today, however, they sang a different ditty. A passenger on one of the buses said: “We have been stuck on the bridge for three hours already. I have to go to Vaishali, which is just on the other side of the bridge. But I could be stuck here for several hours because of the snarl.” He added that he would cancel his trip if things did not improve fast.
Patna central superintendent of police (SP) Shivdeep Lande, who also holds the additional charge of traffic SP, issued orders on the same day to re-instate the BMP personnel to ensure smooth flow of traffic and enforce traffic rules on the bridge. They were, however, nowhere to be seen today.
A traffic constable voiced what many stuck in the snarl must have thought about: “We thought the BMP men would be back. Where are they?”
Lande said: “The order has been passed but it will take five to six days for them return.”