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Blame game faster than traffic
Bad roads versus cop role

The speed at which Calcutta police and various civic agencies have started a blame game over slowing traffic seems to be inversely proportional to the pace at which cars now move in this city of snarls.

A report in The Telegraph on Wednesday highlighting how traffic has slowed down to an average of 7kmph on some busy roads triggered a litany of excuses and allegations and little by way of solutions.

“We have been sending letters to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority, Calcutta Improvement Trust and the Calcutta Port Trust for maintenance and repair of roads. There is not much the police can do until the roads are rid of potholes and craters,” said a senior officer of the traffic department.

Lalbazar isn’t off the mark on road maintenance, never mind its own questionable traffic management.

More than half the roads have craters or potholes but occasional patchwork is the only maintenance that government agencies do, according to the police. Park Circus connector and James Long Sarani are examples of roads left unattended despite the police writing to the agencies responsible for their maintenance over the past few weeks.

If the police have ammunition against the civic agencies, the chaos of traffic in the city has given them the opportunity to lay the blame at Lalbazar’s door.

“Every year, the traffic department sends us a 24-page document with a generalised list of city roads that need repairs. They never pinpoint the stretches,” a CMC official said.

Sources in the traffic department said they had sent a list of “at least 200 stretches of damaged roads” to the respective agencies responsible for their maintenance and not one had been repaired so far.

“We follow a scientific way of identifying the areas that need repair. Officers of the local traffic guard locate the problem area and submit a report each to the office of the deputy commissioner, traffic. The recommendations are then forwarded to the respective agencies,” said an officer-in-charge of a traffic guard.

Stretches of APC Road, Belgachhia Road, BT Road, Khagen Chatterjee Road, Cossipore Road, Raja Rammohan Road and James Long Sarani are mentioned in the list sent to the CMC and the public works department, sources said.

Parts of the Park Circus and Prince Anwar Shah Road connectors and the pockmarked Bypass have been marked as stretches that need to be repaired immediately in a letter to the Metropolitan Development Authority.

The Calcutta Port Trust has been intimated about damaged stretches of Hyde Road and Circular Garden Reach Road. A similar list has been sent to the Calcutta Improvement Trust.

The public works department blamed the police and its “faulty signalling system” for the never-ending traffic snarls.

“The signalling system is unscientific. Vehicles are stuck at every signal even if the roads are empty,” a PWD engineer said.

A senior officer of the traffic department insisted that each traffic signal was necessary to regulate speed and ease congestion. “Our automated system allows traffic signals to work in sync on a particular stretch, providing a green corridor,” he said.

Motorists who drive 30 metres and are forced to stop for 60 seconds would disagree.

There are 304 signals under Calcutta police, 95 of them automated. The concept of a green corridor is only on paper, as the stop-start-stop traffic along Chittaranjan Avenue proves.

Insiders in the traffic department admitted that automated signals had failed to serve their purpose.

“VIP movement is also a traffic issue and the ongoing beautification project has reduced four-lane roads to two-lane ones,” a sergeant said.

Representatives of various agencies and the traffic department met at the CMC headquarters on Wednesday afternoon to draw up a plan to solve these problems before Durga Puja.

Mayor Sovan Chatterjee said the civic body had earmarked Rs 100 crore for repairs on 150 roads. But it came with a rider.

“We have decided to coat the affected stretches of the Bypass with four layers. But this will be possible only when the rain stops,” said Vivek Bharadwaj, chief executive officer, CMDA.

So if Puja in Calcutta this year becomes a bumpy ride, you know who the authorities will blame.