A packed government bus on Wednesday. (Sanat Kr Sinha)
The triple whammy of a bus strike on the surface, a Metro disruption underground and a scorching sun overhead made Wednesday perhaps the worst day to be a commuter in Calcutta in recent memory.
The bus strike, on since Monday, had limited travel options since the morning. Those not fortunate enough to live near Metro stations had a trying time, as the few buses that did run were jam-packed, especially in the peak hours. Autos, too, were hard to get.
But the worst was reserved for the afternoon. The hour-and-a-half Metro disruption forced the bulk of those waiting at the stations on to the road, only to be greeted by a scorching sun.
“I couldn’t attend college as my train was stuck in Central station,” said Ankita Mookherjee, who teaches in a south Calcutta institution. “I waited at the station for 15 minutes from 12.10pm, hoping for things to get normal again. I then went outside to catch a bus, but it was impossible to get into any because all of them had passengers hanging at the doors. I waited for 20 minutes outside the station but realised my classes would be over by the time I would reach.”
Those who travelled by bus suffered because of Wednesday’s heat and humidity. The temperature was 34.5°C in the afternoon, two degrees above normal. The humidity was 95 per cent.
“We needed a cloud cover on Wednesday but it was a sunny afternoon,” said Surojit Sarkar, who changed buses twice to reach Chandni Chowk from Rashbehari.
The Alipore weather office said the sun was at its most scorching around 1pm on Wednesday.
“There was a cloud cover for the rest of the day. But the sun was blazing for an hour from noon,” said a Met official.
Sarkar, who bore the brunt of the scorching sun, said: “I took a bus from Rashbehari. But it broke down at Bhowanipore. I had to stand under the sun for about 20 minutes. I couldn’t stand in the shade because there were hundreds of commuters waiting on the roads, ready to jump on to any bus that would go their way.”
Like always, taxis made hay while the sun shone. There were numerous complaints of drivers demanding exorbitant fares while the Metro service was disrupted. “A driver demanded Rs 200 to take me to Chandni Chowk from Bhowanipore,” Sarkar said.
Normal services resumed around 1.15pm, but the ripple effect of the disruption continued for more than an hour after that.