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So sad, our road is still not cleared

Calcutta, Dec. 17: New Delhi’s Nyaya Marg was thrown fully open to Indians this evening but Calcutta’s Ho Chi Minh Sarani went to bed unsure of the footfalls tomorrow morning.

As part of India’s retaliatory measures, Delhi police today removed the security barricades set up outside the American embassy in Chanakyapuri. “The Nyaya Marg has been opened to public,” special commissioner of Delhi police (security) Taj Hassan said.

But Bengal is awaiting word from Delhi on Ho Chi Minh Sarani where the US consulate is located in Calcutta. Barricades and other restrictions now ensure that a key link between Little Russell Street and Camac Street is a virtually forbidden stretch. This means extra travel of nearly a kilometre.

Adventurous commuters can use the road but should be prepared to face questions from police that begin with “Ki chai (what do you want?)”. The official phrase is “restricted access” which means very few vehicles are allowed unhindered passage.

Officials in Delhi said the removal of the barricades there was symbolical and they would not advise Calcutta to do so without consulting the Bengal government. Besides, a decision to remove the restrictions near the consulate will require inputs from central intelligence.

“The final decision and the responsibility if anything goes wrong lie with the state administration,” an official said.

Trinamul-ruled Bengal need not worry about being beaten to the draw by Congress-ruled Maharashtra. The US consulate in Mumbai is housed in the Bandra Kurla Complex and does not have any barricades on the road, a police officer said.

Symbolic swipes were prized in Calcutta once upon a time. The street where the consulate is located was called Harrington Street. But it was renamed after the Vietnam war hero to spite the US.

Although the street name caught the imagination of all persons anti-American, protesters usually converge on the more visible American Center, the nearby cultural facility outside which four policemen and a guard were shot dead in 2003.

A vehicle coming from, say, the Exide crossing, heading to Camac Street (between 1pm and 10pm), either has to enter Ho Chi Minh Sarani, take Little Russell Street and reach Camac Street via Middleton Row or take a complete detour through Park Street.

Any removal of restrictions from Ho Chi Minh Sarani will mean a vehicle need not take Little Russell Street at all as it can directly hit Camac Street. The cycle of traffic will move the other way round between 10pm that night and 1pm the next day.