The Telegraph
Saturday , July 19 , 2014
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Mamata’s rally, Monday pain

A three-tier dais covering almost the entire width of the road being built in front of Victoria House in central Calcutta on Friday; (below) workers clean the area in front of a smaller dais that blocks half the road at the Hazra crossing. Pictures by Bibhash Lodh

Many parts of Calcutta are set to be paralysed on the first working day of the week when the ruling party hits the road to flex its Maa-Mati-Manush muscles.

The chief minister, who has banished bandhs from Bengal, will be the show-stopper in what is likely to be a shutdown by a different name.

Borrowing a Left trick, Trinamul took pains to show that it didn’t want to inconvenience people. Party leaders Mukul Roy, Subrata Bakshi and Jyotipriya Mallick, who were huddled at Trinamul Bhavan, asked workers to ensure that the rally didn’t inconvenience people.

“It’s a matter of one day, and for a cause. Any inconvenience is regretted in advance,” said a Trinamul leader involved in the preparations.

For long-suffering Calcuttans, there’s little comfort in knowing that the ruling party plans to invade the city centre and regrets the potential inconvenience. Metro gives a measure of the disruption potential of Monday’s rally.

WHAT: Maa-Mati-Manush Divas. Originally called Martyr’s Day in honour of 13 Youth Congress activists who died in police firing in 1993, the rally has been renamed this year in tune with Mamata Banerjee’s favourite phrase.

The rally promises to mix homage to martyrdom with mirth as Mamata celebrates her Lok Sabha triumph in the company of her Tolly faithful.

WHERE: In front of Victoria House. The main dais, a three-tier structure larger than the one built last year, blocks most of Bentinck Street. Another reduces Central Avenue into half its width. The space that remains will be cordoned off by police to protect the VIPs.

WHEN: The meeting starts at noon but traffic could choke hours earlier because of snaking processions towards the rally venue from around 8am. Roads to Esplanade from Sealdah and Howrah could be the first to be affected.

TURNOUT: Trinamul leaders said they expected “not less than 20 lakh people”.

DISRUPTION: The rally crowd will assemble at various locations and head for the venue on foot or by buses, lorries, vans and hired cars.

• People from north Calcutta and those from the districts who come via Calcutta railway station will assemble at the Shyambazar five-point crossing and head for central Calcutta through Bidhan Sarani and SN Banerjee Road

• Supporters from the Burrabazar-Posta belt will take CR Avenue to reach Victoria House

• People coming from Howrah station will take Strand Road and Kingsway

• Those from the Kidderpore area will take Outram Road to reach JL Nehru Road

• Gatherings at Hazra crossing and Birla Planetorium will take JL Nehru Road

• People coming from Sealdah station will reach central Calcutta through Moulali and SN Banerjee Road

• Supporters from the districts camping at Salt Lake stadium since the eve of the rally will take Beleghata Main Road, AJC Bose Road, Moulali and SN Banerjee Road

TRAFFIC: No restrictions, say police. On a rally day, that translates into: “All roads choked.” Traffic across thoroughfares could be diverted to make way for the rally crowd, either on their way to the venue or while returning. Traffic isn’t expected to return to normality before 5pm.

IMPACT: Senior police officers in Lalbazar said there would be kiosks across the city to assist commuters but the unofficial line is that cops on duty will give priority to “unhindered movement” of the rally crowd. “Since the city centre will be choked, the ripple effect could be felt across the city. The extent of disruption will depend on the turnout,” an officer said.

Of the few roads that could escape the traffic torment, the Bypass looks like a safe bet.

SCHOOLS: Several institutions have declared a holiday to spare children the disruption. Some have left it to the parents to decide whether it’s worth taking the trouble of sending their wards to school on Monday.

Closed: Calcutta Girls’ High School, Apeejay School Park Street, Mahadevi Birla World Academy, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, Sri Sri Academy, Don Bosco Park Circus

Open: Modern High School for Girls, La Martiniere for Boys, Apeejay School Salt Lake, South Point, Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan, South City International School, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, The Heritage School, Sushila Birla Girls’ School, Delhi Public School Ruby Park, Birla High School for Boys, Calcutta International School, National Gems Higher Secondary School.

Parents’ call: La Martiniere for Girls

Mixed schedule: Calcutta Boys’ School (holiday for nursery to Class IV; V to XII will give over by 11am); St. James’ School will give over by 11.30am; Pratt Memorial will give over at 10.20am; St. Xavier’s Collegiate School will give over at 11.25am; Assembly of God Church School, Park Street, will give over by 12.45pm; Delhi Public School Newtown will be closed for nursery till Class II; Loreto House will give over at 12.30pm; Adamas International School will give over at 12.30pm.