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Seamless ride for Gariahat Puja shoppers

Calcutta, Aug. 23: The tin cubicle that has blocked half the lane for Rashbehari-bound traffic at the Gariahat crossing will be removed by September 2 to reduce traffic snarls in the Puja shopping season.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to remove the block on a police request but it will be back after Diwali. It had been erected to fence off a portion of the road that has been dug up to desilt an underground sewer.

The block spans almost half the width of the southern flank of Rashbehari Avenue at a spot a few feet to the west of the Gariahat crossing. It has disrupted traffic for 40 months in phases over the past several years.

Earlier, the civic body used to wait till Mahalaya to remove it and temporarily fill up the dug-up portion of the road.

After several disruptions, the desilting project had resumed in May. The civic body hopes to complete it by late next year.

“The police requested us to advance the clearing of the road this year. We shall remove the block by September 2,” a senior civic engineer said.

A traffic department official said the block had strangled traffic on the stretch, with the situation worsening before Puja every year.

“The number of vehicles in the shopping zone (Gariahat) doubles before Puja. This year, we wanted to ease the traffic flow early enough before Mahalaya,” he said.

The sewer pipe being desilted is three metres wide and carries sewage to the pumping station in Topsia.

“We’ll need another year to finish the work. We shall again dig the road up near the connector and put the tin cubicle back in place after Diwali,” the engineer said.

Lalbazar sources said the police had laid “special emphasis” on the stretch while identifying roads that need repairs before Puja.

“This is the only stretch near a shopping destination that needs immediate attention. Lakhs of shoppers come to Gariahat before Puja,” a police officer said.

The project, civic sources said, would have been completed by August last year had the Austrian company executing it not become insolvent. The search for an alternative company led to further delay.

“Although the tender was floated last August, it took six months to award the contract as the proposal had to be passed by the mayoral council and the CMC House,” a civic source said.

Work stalled even after the contract was granted because the electoral code of conduct prevented an agreement being signed with the company before the summer Lok Sabha elections.