The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota cry makes city sigh Commuters crippled by merit rally

Medical students and junior doctors, protesting reservation, drove a knife into the heart of the city on Tuesday by laying siege to a critical intersection for five hours.

Thousands of medical students, interns, house-staff members and post-graduate trainees staged anti-quota demonstrations at the Dorina crossing (SN Banerjee Road-Chowringhee), throwing traffic out of gear till the evening.

The rally started from Medical College and Hospital around 2 pm, with representatives of other medical institutes also joining in. Some Indian Medical Association (IMA) members and senior doctors also marched along.

The rally, under the banner of Youth for Equality, reached the Dorina crossing around 3.30 pm. There, the members raised slogans and burnt effigies. Traffic on SN Banerjee Road, Rani Rashmoni Avenue and Chowringhee came to a standstill. And the ripple effect of the Esplanade block spread throughout the city.

'Traffic was crippled in various parts of the city due to the agitation,' said Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner of police (traffic).

'Since the protesters blocked the most crucial junction of the city, traffic movement in central, south and north Calcutta was severely disrupted. We had to make several diversions, but even that did not help much,' admitted Shamim.

Manoj Das, a resident of Netaji Subhas Road, Howrah, summed up the frustrations of commuters caught at the crossroads: 'This is disgusting. I have been waiting for the past two hours here and nothing seems to be moving.'

Several office-goers like Das were held up on their way back home.

'We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to people, but the protest is for their benefit. If the new quota system is implemented, merit will be seriously compromised,' claimed Satyajit Das, a member of Youth for Equality.

Around 5 pm, a group of agitators tried to force their way into Rani Rashmoni Road but were stopped. 'Police beat us up and four of our colleagues had to be hospitalised,' Satyajit Das alleged. Police denied the allegation.

A 17-member delegation of the agitators also met Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi at Raj Bhavan.

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