Barricades and a no-entry sign on Red Road on Tuesday afternoon. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Police closed down Red Road for over two hours from noon on Tuesday to hold rehearsals for the upcoming Vivek Chetana Utsav, causing long snarls and traffic bottlenecks in the heart of the city.
The key artery was closed for a similar duration on Saturday, too, disrupting traffic across stretches. Sources said the road might again be closed around noon on January 9 for the final rehearsal.
Police admitted this was probably the first time the busy road was being blocked for rehearsals at midday but pleaded helplessness, saying the stretch was being used for Republic Day parade practice in the morning.
The seven-day Vivek Chetana Utsav, which will mark the end of the celebrations of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary, starts on January 10. The inaugural programme on Red Road will include a parade by the state and city police and cultural performances by school students from across the state.
On Tuesday, around 1,800 police personnel and close to 300 students took part in the rehearsals.
Many of the commuters who got delayed because of the road closure and the resultant diversions slammed the police for not making the rehearsal plan public.
“The traffic cops are so active on Facebook. Had they posted a message about the diversions a day ahead on the social networking site, we could have planned accordingly,” said a Jadavpur resident who regularly takes Red Road to reach his office in central Calcutta.
Metro found that the webpage of the city traffic police had a message about the diversions, posted around the time the curbs came into force, leaving motorists with no time to decide on an alternative route.
“The police diverted my car at the Red Road-Dufferin Road crossing. Failing to take Red Road, I would have preferred to go through Dufferin Road that connects to Mayo Road. But there was a bottleneck at the Dufferin Road crossing and I was forced to take a detour through Outram Road,” recounted Howrah resident Mitali Mukherjee, on her way to office near Bentinck Street.
Vehicles heading for BBD Bag from Kidderpore Road were diverted through Dufferin Road and Outram Road to Mayo Road and Chowringhee Road.
“There was a bottleneck on Dufferin Road as most Red Road-bound vehicles tried to take that. The ripple effect spread to Outram Road and Chowringhee Road,” said a traffic cop.
Rehearsals for the Vivek Chetana Utsav had started in December. “The first rehearsal was held on December 22, the second on December 29, followed by a few more in the first week of January this year. Till Saturday, the rehearsals were being held early in the morning on Red Road. But the practice had to be shifted to noon because of the Republic Day parade rehearsal. On Wednesday, the Vivek Chetana rehearsal would be held at 6.30am as there would be no January 26 parade drill,” the officer added.