Calcutta commuters can’t beat traffic-choker rallies simply because police refuse to let them know details of such gatherings in advance.
And if the traffic department is to be believed, officers responsible for making alternative arrangements are in the dark themselves about rallies even 12 hours before they start.
That’s what the department claims when Metro calls up the traffic control room between 10pm and midnight daily to know whether any public meeting is scheduled for the next day. Metro prints rally schedules under the headline “Roads to Avoid” to help readers skirt the bottlenecks.
The response from the control room on most days is: “Amader kachhe kono khobor nei (we don’t have information about any rally tomorrow).”
The Calcutta police traffic webpage on Facebook, too, is of little help as the earliest updates on rallies or traffic curbs are not available before 9am on the day the programmes are scheduled.
“What is the point of having a traffic Facebook page if you can’t provide the necessary information in advance?” wondered a Tollygunge resident, who has to cross the city centre daily on his way to office near Girish Park in north Calcutta.
“On days I get to know about a rally in the Metro Channel, I don’t travel by car. But on most occasions I am in the dark about such events and hence get stuck at Esplanade for hours,” said the young entrepreneur.
Senior officers of the traffic department, however, washed their hands of the lapse and blamed sister unit “headquarters”, also housed in Lalbazar, for the delay.
“All arrangements for rallies — traffic as well as law and order — are made by the headquarters unit. We come to know about them only when the headquarters staff convey the information to us. The information comes very late,” said a senior officer of the traffic department, wishing not to be named.
The traffic department’s claim was, however, rubbished by officers in the “movement section” at Lalbazar, who are responsible for relaying information to the departments concerned.
“Once the arrangements are finalised at the headquarters office, we promptly send the information to the traffic department and the division concerned so they can make necessary traffic and law and order arrangements well in advance,” said an officer in the movements wing.
According to a retired officer, the traffic department and the division concerned need to know rally schedules at least 15 hours in advance to make necessary arrangements.