Metro takes stock of what rocked and what flopped as the city hit the streets 24 x 4 to celebrate its biggest festival
The footfalls flowed and so did the traffic, despite dug-up roads and work-in-progress projects.
Calcuttans used to crossing roads wherever they want were prevented from doing so by police ropes and the effect was telling. Traffic moved even when unending queues of vehicles formed. “Traffic cops were deployed in three shifts since many go pandal-hopping in the morning now. We also did not allow autorickshaws to ply on major arteries,” said an officer. If only every day was Puja day, city traffic would be a breeze!
Metro ferried 19 lakh passengers on four days, about 1.5 lakh more than last year, and without a glitch. The addition of eight AC rakes to the operational fleet seems to have allowed more time for the maintenance of the old coaches. A little planning, too, helped. “Normally, we run 20 rakes but we operated 17 during Puja and kept three as back-up,” said an official. The back-ups were used whenever a train got delayed, mostly because of overcrowding and malfunctioning doors. The only negative? The long queues for tickets because of shortage of counters.
Buses and taxis plied through the Puja nights. Transport department claimed 32,000 taxis, 21,000 private buses and 2,000 state buses were on the road during the festival. But the taxis ran on their own terms, charging a premium for every trip they agreed to make, and the buses were often packed beyond capacity. Radio taxis struggled to cope with the demand.
The planes were on schedule but the airport was dirtier than usual. Most of the cleaners did not turn up for work, leaving passengers complaining of stinking toilets and overflowing garbage bins. About 15,000 passengers used the terminal each Puja day, “almost three times the capacity”, said an official.
There was rush at the ghats till late on Thursday with over 80 per cent of the idols being immersed by then, but the police and volunteers played their part. Crackers were few, thanks to a high court ban. The only remaining immersion window is Sunday, on the eve of Lakshmi Puja.
For many, the weather was the best part of Puja: sunny but not scorching, cool but not chilly. People perspired less because of the low humidity and hence, could visit more pandals. The minimum relative humidity hovered between the mid-30s and the mid-40s and the minimum temperature was in the early 20s, about two notches below normal.