| The protesting traders at Sevoke More. A Telegraph picture
Siliguri, Aug. 31: A blockade by traders at Sevoke More here to protest against the closing of gaps in the dividers on Hill Cart Road disrupted traffic movement in town for three hours today.
Siliguri traffic police had blocked the gaps last night with iron railings and the business community felt that customers would find it difficult to go to the 400 or so shops lined on either side of the road. Their argument is that people will have to walk at least 500m to reach a proper crossing point and most would not go through the trouble of doing that. They would rather shop elsewhere.
The traders — all members of Hill Cart Road Byabsayee Samiti — called off the agitation after an assurance from Siliguri subdivisional officer P.T. Sherpa, and Siliguri additional superintendent of police (ASP) Rajesh Yadav that the iron railings would be removed this evening.
“The police set up the barricade without giving us any prior information or consulting our members,” said Karanjit Bose, the chairman of the Samiti, which has more than 300 members. “People will not be able to move freely and business will be affected.”
Gopal Kundu, another member of the trade body, said at the time of installing the dividers, it was decided that there would be seven or eight gaps so that commuters could cross the road at these points. “But now the administration is violating the decision,” Kundu alleged.
The ASP denied the allegation, but failed to break the ice till he assured the traders that the barricades would be done away with, at least till the next meeting scheduled for September 5.
Traffic moved at a snail’s pace on Church Road, Nabin Sen Road, Bidhan Road and Kachari Road — routes that either lead to or come out of Hill Cart Road — from 11am to 2pm. The arrival of Prabhat Chakraborty, the inspector-in-charge of Siliguri police station, at 11.30am did not help much, nor did the persuasion of Indra Chakraborty, the deputy superintendent of police, 15 minutes later.
The ASP said the police were not against the traders’ idea. “But we will have to see the greater interest first. A recent survey has revealed that a few measures are necessary to prevent mishaps and barricading the gaps is one of them,” said Yadav.
The ASP said most of the gaps in the divider have been created by traders and pedestrians for their own convenience. Sometimes people even go through these gaps on motorcycles.