Part-time teachers and employees of schools squat at the Dorina Crossing on Monday afternoon, throwing traffic out of gear. Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha
Mamata Banerjee’s Metro Channel comeback has inspired the rally faithful to go back to blocking the city centre without fear, resistance and guilt.
A group of part-time teachers squatted at the Dorina Crossing for about 25 minutes on Monday afternoon, triggering traffic paralysis across central Calcutta. But the majority of the 200-odd part-time teachers and non-teaching staff of secondary and Higher Secondary schools demanding regularisation of service couldn’t care less about their protest becoming the commuter’s pain.
“Mamata Banerjee recently attended a programme in the middle of the Metro Channel and declared that the event would be held there every year. So why do you blame us?” demanded a teacher in the group.
The chief minister was the chief guest at a Hool Divas programme — commemorating the 1855 tribal uprising against the British — at the Metro Channel on June 30. The shamiana set up for the event covered an entire flank of the road, blocking that stretch from afternoon till late in the evening.
But Mamata, who had last year promised to rid the city centre of traffic-choker rallies, was unapologetic. “Aagami bochhor Hool Divas boro kore ei jaigai hobe (Hool Divas will be celebrated here next year on a bigger scale),” she announced.
Monday’s protest, between 2.15 and 2.40pm, was the second at the Dorina Crossing in four days. A group of Congress supporters had laid siege to the crossing on Friday after a rally in support of Pranab Mukherjee’s presidential campaign.
The cops were apparently caught off guard on Monday because the teachers and their office colleagues hadn’t informed Lalbazar about their plan to block the crossing. While seeking permission for a march from College Square till the Metro Channel, they had promised to peacefully disperse after a meeting on Y Road, a lane off Esplanade.
But with the teachers squatting at the crossing, vehicles were stranded all along the north-bound flank of Jawaharlal Nehru Road, the tail of the snarl reached the southern end of Park Street flyover.
At one point, the police were forced to stop vehicles from taking the flyover. “All vehicles were diverted through Mayo Road, Rani Rashmoni Avenue, Government Place East and Esplanade East to reach the KC Das crossing in Esplanade,” an officer said.
The detour meant three times the distance till the Dorina Crossing from the Park Street-Jawaharlal Nehru Road intersection.
On the south-bound flank, the snarl stretched till the MG Road-CR Avenue crossing. Traffic was diverted through BB Ganguly Street and Ganesh Chandra Avenue to reach Raja Subodh Mullick Square.
The police said blocking the Dorina Crossing without warning seemed to be a new strategy of the rally brigade. “The Congress rally on Friday and the teachers’ march today diverted from the plan. So we were taken by surprise,” a sergeant said.
The protesters were requested to disperse but they didn’t, forcing the police to bundle 101 of them into buses and take them to Lalbazar.
“People think they can get away doing anything they like,” a cop was heard grumbling.
But that is how things will be when the chief minister herself shows the way.
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