The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Car freeze in cadre raj
- Flights missed, school buses stopped as war games protests spill on to roads

Ashok Sharma thought he could beat the CPM demonstrators and make it easily to the airport from his Lake Town home by leaving at 4 pm to catch his 6.30 pm flight to Delhi.

But he had a nightmare awaiting him. 'It was something that I had never imagined could happen,' Sharma told Metro. 'I took a taxi from my home but could not even get out of Lake Town because the crossing on VIP Road was clogged.'

What Sharma had failed to factor in was that a massive procession had started from Ultadanga and was making its way down VIP Road to the airport hotel, crippling all traffic along the way.

Walking a bit and then hailing another cab, Sharma finally reached the airport. But by then, the flight had taken off.

Airport officials said there were at least 50 cases of 'no show' for the evening flights on Monday, almost all having missed it because of the CPM cadre protesting the US-Indian Air Force joint exercises at Kalaikunda, 130 km away.

'About 20 passengers missed our flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai,' said a spokesman for Indian Airlines. 'The story is the same for the other airlines. Though we managed to accommodate those travelling to Delhi and Mumbai in subsequent flights, those travelling to Chennai will have to wait a day.'

SpiceJet said about 20 passengers had missed their flights, while Jet Airways put its figure at 15.

There were two processions through VIP Road that converged in front of the airport hotel, where CPM leaders like Biman Bose addressed the gathering. The one from Ultadanga started at around 2.40 pm and proceeded towards the hotel. The other one started from Kachari Maidan, in Barasat, around 1.15 pm and then meandered its way down to VIP Road.

Those taking the New Town-Rajarhat route to the airport were stopped in front of the Haldiram outlet.

Airport-bound vehicles were not the only ones caught in the roadblock. Parents complained of school buses being held up for 'two hours' as protestors refused to allow them into VIP Road till after 5 pm.

Police claimed that they had kept the Haldiram-airport lane clear, but those who travelled this route rubbished it.

In the heart of the city, the scene was no different. Processions started from different parts of the city like Kidderpore, Hazra, Elliot Road and Rani Rashmoni Avenue and converged in front of the American Center, on Chowringhee, throwing traffic into disarray and even holding up schoolchildren returning home.

The situation was compounded with Chhat puja devotees heading in processions to the Hooghly ghats.

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