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Rallyists march, city stands still
Finger at cops for traffic snarls

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 18: Residents here have blamed police for the failure to manage traffic jams that grip the city during Assembly sessions.

At least 15 rallies passed through Master Canteen Square today, resulting in traffic chaos around the area from 10am to 2pm.

Stuck in the jam on the Janpath — connecting Vani Vihar and Sishu Bhavan Square — the commuters have demanded that the timing of the protest rallies and routes be communicated to them in advance, so that they can avoid the snarls.

“Halfway between Rajmahal Square and Master Canteen Square, the traffic police diverted our vehicles towards a narrow road into the Unit-II residential area. All lanes of the area were choc-a-bloc with motorists trying to find a way out, pressing horns and creating a lot of noise,” said Sanjukta Sethi, who works for a courier company at Kharavela Nagar.

It took Sanjukta, 23, almost an hour to cover the stretch from Rajmahal Square to Sriya Square that is usually a five-minute brisk walk for her.

“Everyone, stuck in the rally, was hurling curses at the policemen directing us towards the lanes and by-lanes. Life would be so much simpler if they let the public know about the rallies and traffic restrictions at least 24 hours in advance,” she sighed.

The 15 rallies included one by nearly 3,000 anganwadi workers, 6,000-odd members of a few teachers’ associations and around 7,000 people under the banner of the Odisha Rajya Milita Swabalambi Karmachari.

This was a far cry from the statement of director-general of police Prakash Mishra ahead of the Assembly session that crowds of over 2,000 people would not be allowed near the House, according to a court order.

All the rallies originated from the railway station and crossed Master Canteen Square to reach Mahatma Gandhi Marg towards the Assembly. Hence, commuters could not cross Master Canteen and were stranded on both sides of it.

As they stood stuck by the rallies, many people fumed at the authorities for not working out alternative routes for the protesters and diverting traffic more efficiently.

Several people, who got down at Bhubaneswar railway station this morning, said it was a traumatic day for them as they were made to wait for hours to find public transport or get to their homes and hotels.

“At least five autorickshaw drivers refused to take me to Vani Vihar Square and were busy shouting abuses at the traffic cops. Since I am new to this city, I was not willing to take a chance and waited under a tree for 70 minutes for the snarls to clear,” said Sushant Mishra, an entrepreneur from Delhi.

A traffic cop, who today sweated it out for nearly four hours manning the traffic at various points on Janpath, said they had received information about the rallies and protest gatherings only 12 hours in advance.

“But, there is no appropriate forum to communicate this to the people,” he rued.

Assistant commissioner of police, traffic, Bhubaneswar, Binod Das said they had diverted the vehicles through the lane roads, so that people would not be affected by the rallies. “But, when a large number of people gather on this road, it becomes hard to manage vehicular movement,” said Das.

An official of the police’s licensing section, which gives permission for rallies, said the applicants had been accorded permission on the condition that they would stick to the 2,000 people. “But, they do not keep their words which lead to such traffic chaos,” he said.