| A section of anti-war CPM rallyists who choked the city for hours on March 30. A Telegraph picture
It was around 4.45 pm on Thursday at Lalbazar, ringing crazy with distress calls from a city centre thrown out of gear by yet another protest rally.
It was mad, but manageable, till an SOS (read: save our skins) from minister Asok Bhattacharya’s office landed on the desk of Anumoy Saha, personal assistant to the deputy commissioner (DC), traffic, monitoring the mess.
“The minister is on his way to catch a flight to Mumbai, but he is stuck on Park Street. He can’t get through to anyone from his mobile and so he has told us to convey to Lalbazar that he will miss the flight if nothing is done. Kichhu korun…,” said the caller from the urban affairs minister’s office.
Saha lost no time in alerting the Lalbazar traffic control room. The transmitting officer, in turn, barked out to the traffic guards: “All stations stay off. Mantri Asok Bhattacharya Park Street-e aatke gechhen. Flight miss korben… Aapni gari tanun (…Clear the route for the minister).”
To add muscle to the message, officer-in-charge (traffic control room) S. Mitra reiterated the order to make way for the minister at all cost.
Around 5 pm, the most important traffic missive of the day reached DC (traffic) M.K. Singh, on Red Road, busy finding a way out of the traffic trap for the chief minister’s principal secretary, Arun Bhattacharya. Singh, too, relays the “gadi tanun” message to those manning Park Street and beyond. In a 20-minute operation, a magic path is opened up for the only car that mattered on Park Street. Bhattacharya’s red-light Ambassador weaves in and out of the never-ending car cordon, with the police pulling one vehicle and pushing the next, for the Park Street stagnant sea of traffic to part.
In 20 minutes, mission minister movement is accomplished and Bhattacharya speeds off to the airport, to make it in time for the flight to Mumbai.
Just a thought, Mr Minister. You made it to your destination, thanks to a hyperactive police force spurred into action for obvious reasons, while thousands caught in the car crawl could do little but sweat and swear. Maybe, next time you have a flight to catch, you could check Metro’s Roads to avoid, which, on Thursday, had clearly warned against the traffic-trauma threat posed by the West Bengal Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Dealers Association protesting excise duty imposition. To add to the mess, the Mahila Samity chose the afternoon to protest the Iraq war.
Bhattacharya and Bhattacharya (Asok and Arun) were not the only VIPs whose wheels refused to turn. Anjanaben Shah was forced to return to Raj Bhavan from Red Road, as she couldn’t find a way to head south, through the Thursday traffic.