Geoffrey Boycott isn’t game for another long drive on a Calcutta road but transport minister Madan Mitra thinks the Yorkshireman with a yen for long innings just misread the pitch.
“Boycott did not mean that the roads were bad. He tried to say that the journey was too long. In his country, it may take him a few minutes to travel from one place to another but the roads are not like that in this country,” Mitra told Metro with a straight bat.
And then he danced down the track. “The roads in Behala are much better than those in several other places in the city and I do not think they require any special care,” Mitra declared, countering Boycott’s comment the previous day about his ride through a bumpy 8km stretch of Diamond Harbour Road to reach Pailan for a function.
“You’ve got to fix your roads. It takes forever to reach anywhere,” Boycott had said, leaving minister Mitra and colleague Aroop Biswas looking like bowlers mauled.
Metro travelled the road that took Boycott the day after to find out how a Calcutta thoroughfare tested the patience of someone who used to wait all day for a loose ball to hit for a boundary.
The car journey to Pailan that started at noon from the Taratala crossing took 35 minutes to complete at an average speed of 13kmph over 8km, enough to irritate even the regular commuter and thoroughly frustrate a foreigner unfamiliar with the city’s traffic trauma.
Diamond Harbour Road, already constricted because of the construction of overhead tracks for the Joka-BBD Bag Metro, has become even smaller with illegally parked vehicles, autorickshaws, makeshift shops, garbage and construction material take up a section of the carriageway. Potholes and traffic signals every few metres combine to further reduce car speed.
The 1km stretch between Silpara and Thakurpukur Bazar is dotted with at least seven large potholes, the widest of them around 5ft in diameter and the deepest one around 10inches. Patchwork on the potholes along the stretch between Behala police station and Behala Chowrasta has made the road worse. “We suffer every day and have petitioned the authorities several times without any response from them. Now that a celebrity outsider (Boycott) has spoken out before the ministers, let’s see what happens,” said Rochisnu Bhattacharya, a trader.
The 8km stretch that Metro travelled on Wednesday has 19 traffic signals with an average stoppage time of a minute each. There are at least another 15 more unscheduled halts to allow pedestrians, rickshaws and vehicles to cross the road at the intersections with various roads and lanes.
“Traffic police constables stop traffic erratically to allow people to cross the road even at places where there is no intersection. This slows down the average vehicle speed further,” rued Sabyasachi Laha, a Bagbazar resident who owns a unit in Pailan that makes machinery.
The carriageway used to be 30ft wide until work started on the Joka–BBD Bag Metro project. Rows of illegally parked vehicles and temporary shops lining the roadside have further eaten into road space, the stretch between Behala No. 14 bus stand and Siddheshwari Kalibari being the worst in terms of encroachment. The width of the road along that stretch is now barely 10ft.
Almost the entire stretch is lined with open garbage vats, waste material dumped by the roadside and stinking slush pulled out of drains and left there. The poorly planned markets at Behala Manton, Behala Tram Depot, Thakurpukur, Silpara and Panchanantala add to the accumulation of waste, apart from disrupting traffic flow.
“Municipality workers are irregular in collecting garbage. When they do turn up, they leave behind a huge mass of waste. I feel ashamed to invite relatives to my place because of the condition of the road and the piles of garbage,” said Dibyajyoti Das, a resident of a highrise near Behala Janakalyan.
As in any other part of the city, unruly auto drivers rule the road. Autos park wherever they want, eating up road space and slowing down traffic. The cops are apparently blind to the violations by three-wheelers, including illegal U-turns and reckless driving.
Cars and mini trucks illegally parked beside police kiosks and the no-parking boards near Ajanta cinema, Siddheswari Kalibari and Behala Manton tell the story of slack policing.
“The cops seem interested only in booking motorcyclists without helmets,” said Abhijit Roy Chowdhury, who owns a shop at Behala market.
On which stretches of the city have you felt likeGeoffrey Boycott did onTuesday? Tellttmetro@abpmail.com