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Salt Lake scramble for balls of ‘silver’

- Traffic stops near City Centre as people pick beads

Hundreds of people went “silver” picking on a Salt Lake road on Tuesday morning after millions of tiny silvery balls were found strewn on that stretch.

Traffic went haywire at Salt Lake’s CD Block between City Centre and Bidhannagar Subdivisional Hospital as motorists, auto drivers, cyclists, rickshaw-pullers, street vendors and pedestrians joined a mad scramble to collect the balls that possibly dropped from a passing vehicle.

The frenzy reached a crescendo around 11am on the back of a rumour that the little spherical objects — similar to the ones used as beads in ornaments — were made of the precious metal which was fetching over Rs 44,000 a kilo on Tuesday.

As word spread, more and more people joined the “prospectors” — squatting on the road and picking the balls from every nook and cranny. The place was soon teeming with people, leaving no room for traffic to pass.

Bidhannagar North police station had to send a large posse of personnel to clear the road but the people refused to budge and make way for traffic. Lathis had to be used to push the adamant bunch away from the middle of the road, police said.

Police officers said the “fortune” lying on the road were actually shiny metal beads used to decorate rakhi and friendship bands. To be doubly sure, samples have been sent for a forensic test.

“The rumour spread like wildfire and the entire road was blocked by noon. We rushed to the spot and tried to clear the path but to no avail as scores of men and women continued to pick the shiny objects. We had to shoo them out to allow traffic movement,” said Debashish Dhar, the additional deputy commissioner of police, Bidhannagar. “We don’t think it is silver. Looks like they are just balls painted in silver colour.”

People picking the balls were not concerned whether they were fake or real silver. “What if they turn out to be real?” asked one collecting and pocketing as much as he could.

“Why take a chance? I filled up a bag and took it home,” said Jayanta Halder, a resident of Kestopur, who sells sugarcane juice near City Centre.

Salt Lake DD Block resident Snehasis Banerjee said his car was stuck in the snarl created by the “silver pickers” until the police came and cleared the way.

“I kept pleading and honking but nobody listened. Hundreds of people were on the road and I too got off my car as curiosity got the better of me. I checked some the balls scattered all over the road and found they were cheap silvery beads,” said Banerjee.

Some of the “prospectors” had even rushed to nearby jewellery shops to check if the balls were made of silver. They returned disheartened when the goldsmiths rubbed the silver colour off the balls.

“I took the balls to a goldsmith at Duttabad. He rubbed some chemical on the surface and hit one of the larger balls with a hammer and the polish came off, exposing a red base. The goldsmith said the balls were made of some cheap metal and painted in silver colour,” said Tarak Das, a Duttabad resident.