| What it takes to bring Calcutta Police to its knees at Metro Channel. Just a Matador parked in the middle of the road, a handful of protesters and a mouthful of microphones, as on Wednesday afternoon. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Maidan or Metro Channel' Seek permission from Calcutta Police or just keep them posted' Pay a deposit or don't' Metro provides a ready reckoner of how and where to hold a rally by the rules ' not that any political party has ever cared to do that.
What are the designated areas for holding a rally in the city centre'
Metro Channel (the stretch opposite Metro cinema on JL Nehru Road), Rani Rashmoni Avenue and Shahid Minar ground were mentioned as the only designated rally areas in an affidavit filed by the state government in the high court ' after consulting police ' in September 2003.
This had followed Justice Amitabha Lala's order banning all weekday rallies in the city. The court, however, did not pass any order on the government's affidavit.
Why choose these sites'
Police claim they had okayed them under pressure from the government. The government's logic was that meetings and rallies have traditionally been held in the Esplanade area and on the Maidan. After the army decided not to allow Maidan meetings ' not ordinary ones, at least ' these three were picked as the points of protest.
Can police permit or prohibit rallies'
Police cannot give permission to conduct rallies on any road or street of the city. It can only manage the traffic and law and order in the areas where rallies are held. Police officers point out that when approached for permission, they suggest Shahid Minar as the rally spot, since it is less of a traffic-stopper.
Why do political parties shun Shahid Minar as venue'
A show of strength is as much about 'show' as it is about strength. A gathering of 500 looks huge on Metro Channel or RR Avenue and causes traffic chaos; the same turnout on Shahid Minar grounds would hardly be noticed.
What is the nature of police permission required'
The usual norm is for the 'applicant' to fill up a form and submit it to police, who do not reply to it, indicating tacit approval.
What about the Rs 2,000 deposit'
In its affidavit, the state government had suggested a deposit of Rs 2,000 by rally organisers, which would be forfeited in case road rules were flouted and traffic disrupted. But since the high court did not pass an order on the affidavit, this clause has remained a mere suggestion on paper. No political party has ever paid this rally fee.
Is the situation likely to improve in a hurry'
Hardly. With the elections approaching, the number of rallies is only bound to increase, leaving the Calcutta commuter stranded at the crossroads.