The spotlight on Friday was on road rights — and road rides — during the Puja days. If the police were launching a crackdown on pandals blocking main roads, the PWD, CMDA and the CMC were finalising joint plans to repair potholed roads in the city before the Pujas.
Following a “surprise check” of upcoming pandals in the city on Friday, police chief Sujoy Chakraborty directed two south Calcutta puja committees — Chaitali Sangha on Swinhoe Street and Ballygunge Palli on Dover Road — not to hold up traffic on thoroughfares. The encroachments at these two points, Chakraborty noted, would affect vehicular movement. Going by police estimates, around 300 vehicles hit these two roads every minute, during peak Puja-time.
According to deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, the Ballygunge Palli pandal had eaten up about 15 feet of the 25-foot Dover Road, while Chaitali Sangha had encroached upon nearly 14 feet of the 27-foot Swinhoe Street. “We have directed the two organisers to push back their pandals by at least five feet,’’ Singh added.
The police directive has irked the two organisers. “While influential puja committees, like Singhi Park and Ekdalia Evergreen, are completely blocking important intersections, we are the ones to be harassed,’’ complained a spokesperson for Chaitali Sangha. Ballygunge Palli committee members even volunteered to help the police manage traffic during the Pujas. “But the police are adamant about pushing us back,’’ a senior committee member said.
The police are working on the possibility of clamping one-way restrictions along a stretch of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, from its intersection with New Park Street, near Science City, till the Rashbehari Avenue connector. To cope with the rush at the popular Bosepukur pujas, Kasba-bound vehicles will then enter the city through the Science City corridor and proceed along Syed Amir Ali Avenue, taking a left towards Cornfield Road, Swinhoe Street and Bijon Setu.
At Writers’ Buildings, the route to road maintenance and repairs was being chalked out. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee met urban development and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya on Friday to discuss a two-phase plan of action, involving Rs 16 crore. The “temporary” phase would cover “resurfacing of roads” before the Pujas, while the “permanent” one would involve long-term measures. “We will be speaking to transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, especially about the repair of roads with tram tracks,” Bhattacharya said.
After the meeting, the mayor said 37 roads in the CMC area had been identified for repairs and resurfacing before the Pujas. “The monsoons have taken their toll on the roads and some of the ones with trams tracks are in real bad shape,” said Mukherjee.