|BACK ON TRACKS: People once again risk their lives to reach Birsa Chowk from Birsa Munda Raj Marg as the HEC gate remains closed (above) during the Assembly session on Wednesday morning. Pictures By Prashant Mitra
When legislators meet, common man suffers.
A Jharkhand High Court directive notwithstanding, the Ranchi district administration has failed to take any concrete step to stem the chaos and inconvenience caused every time the lone gate near Birsa Chowk — from where the Assembly is some 100 metres away — is closed during House proceedings.
The beginning of the week, following the start of the monsoon session, was just another grim reminder of poor urban planning in the capital as twin protests by JVM workers and para-teachers kept the HEC gate closed for the better half of the day. Hundreds of schoolchildren, senior citizens and secretariat employees were seen taking a short cut via railway tracks to reach Birsa Chowk from Birsa Munda Raj Marg.
Satish Singh, a resident of HEC Township, claimed that around 100,000 local residents were affected when the district administration closed the gate for mob control on Monday and Tuesday. “When the gate is shut, it becomes difficult for us to reach Birsa Chowk. Many cross the railway line instead of taking longer detours,” he said.
Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey admitted the recurring problem, but in the same breath maintained that it was necessary to man the gate to keep protesters at bay when the Assembly is in session. “In fact, we have stopped closing the main entrance to HEC Township every day, like it remained opened today. But, on September 3 and 4, it had become necessary to close the gate to maintain law and order. There were more than 10,000 demonstrators on the streets. We could not risk a chance,” he reasoned.
Choubey also pointed out alternatives.
According to a traffic route plan enforced last year, vehicles making their way to Dhurwa, HEC and Project Building can take a right turn at AG More (near Doranda) and cut through Shyamali (Mecon Colony) before reaching Harmu bypass. Likewise, vehicles bound for Birsa Chowk and adjoining areas from Harmu bypass can also take the 3km detour through Shyamali.
On March 15, the high court had asked the government to ease commuter trouble by finding more viable alternatives. It was hearing a PIL filed by a voluntary organisation, Centre for Media and Development, which demanded that the HEC gate be kept open for the convenience of thousands of commuters.
The court had asked the chief secretary to look into the matter and, “if the grievance is genuine”, make adequate arrangements so that people did not suffer. “It should be in the interest of the state too,” it had said. But, the administration has done precious little in the past five months, leaving thoroughfares plagued with bottlenecks in peak hours and forcing commuters to risk their lives and limbs by crossing railway tracks.
When told that the current alternative routes were long, crowded and, hence, inconvenient, Choubey curtly said: “There is no option. The administration is bound to give law and order priority.”
How can this routine traffic bottleneck be overcome?