| Biju Yuva Janata Dal activists wear Naveen Patnaik masks at the rally in Bhubaneswar and (below) an ambulance stuck in the consequent traffic congestion. Pictures by Ashwinee Pati |
Bhubaneswar, March 5: The city was gridlocked today as all roads led to the Exhibition Ground, the venue of the BJD’s Yuva Samavesh.
Traffic was thrown out of gear as most of the roads, particularly the centre of the city, were under siege as BJD activists marched towards the venue.
The activists defied traffic rules with impunity as policemen watched helplessly.
Commuters, motorists and even ambulances were seen waiting at many traffic squares for long to reach their destinations.
If the main thoroughfares were choked, the bylanes were no less suffocated as the alleys bore the brunt of traffic diversion. The chaos that gripped the city since morning went on for hours.
The suffering would have been far greater if it was not a state government holiday today.
The rally coincided with the BJD celebrating Panchayatiraj Diwas on the occasion of the birth anniversary of former chief minister Biju Patnaik.
“I came from AG Square and the traffic policeman did not stop me. As I came near the Housing Board Square, the vehicles were diverted towards Unit-IV. However all the roads inside Unit- IV were full with BJD activists and their vehicles. There were not a single policeman to regulate the crowd in the lanes,” said Sambit Mohapatra, a central government employee, who struggled to reach office today.
There were similar allegations from many people who were unaware of the event.
“Whenever regular events or government programmes are organised here, the road in front of the Exhibition Ground gets congested and throws traffic out of gear. We do not understand how the authorities allow such huge rallies in the heart of the city and they do not inform us in advance about the diversions,” saidRatikant Sahu, a private company employee.
As roads leading to the Exhibition Ground were closed for vehicular movement and people had to walk to the venue.
The road in front of the Exhibition Ground was blocked at its two ends — Ram Mandir Square and Housing Board Square.
Waving party flags, the BJD occupied road space in the heart of the city.
Supporters of the BJD, who had turned up in huge numbers at the rally, and their vehicles took siege to the thoroughfares including Sachivalaya Marg, AG Square, Acharya Vihar Square, Vidyut Marg, areas near Raj Bhavan, Jayadev Vihar Square and the stretch from Rajmahal Square to Rupali Square on the Janpath. Besides several major roads and lanes that link these three thoroughfares with Unit III, IV, IX and parts of Unit II were teeming with BJD supporters. The crowd cause immense inconvenience to the local residents.
“We could not come out of our house as the BJD supporters had parked their vehicles in front of our houses. Besides, they truned the area into an open-air toilet and the stench emanating from there was too much to bear,” said Charubala Mohanty, a resident of Unit-III.
The siege of the town also created problems for those travelling towards the railway station and the airport.
“My cousin almost missed the train to Puducherry. By the time I dropped him at the railway station after moving from one lane to another in Unit IV and Unit IX areas, the train had begun to move. My brother risked his life and jumped into the moving train,” said Sourabh Sinha, a resident of Acharya Vihar.
The commissionerate police were not ready to handle such a huge congregating of BJD supporters in the heart of the city.
They failed to control the crowd and had no clue about where to divert the vehicles that had come from outside the city. Though the police do not allow processions to take the Sachivalaya Marg, the cops remained mute spectators as BJD rallies crossed the area. A police officer said that they had no information about the rally till last night.
“Though we knew about the convention much earlier, there was no official communication before last night. We had not even been told about the expected crowd gathering, so it got difficult for us to manage the traffic at several places mostly inside the lanes,” said the officer, who did not want to be named.
He, however, admitted that it would have been a huge pressure for them had it been a working day.
In another incident a BJD ticket aspirant from Brahmagiri in Puri district lodged a complaint with the Kharvela Nagar police station alleging assault on his supporters by the henchmen of Brahmagiri MLA and BJD youth wing president Sanjay Dasbarma.