Paritosh Dey travelled from Haldia to Calcutta on Sunday and stayed overnight at a relative’s house so that the Trinamul Congress’s Maa-Mati-Manush Divas wouldn’t prevent him from attending the first day of classes at Presidency University.
At the institution that chief minister Mamata Banerjee aspires to turn into a “world-class” centre of learning, the conversation among students on the first day of the academic session revolved around how tough she had made it for them to reach the university.
Paritosh, who has chosen to study biological sciences, plans to travel for two-and-a-half hours from Haldia to Presidency and back every day until he gets a seat in the hostel. But for his first day in a new institution, he didn’t want to take a chance with a Trinamul rally in the heart of the city.
“Buses were off the road in Haldia too because they had all been requisitioned by Trinamul to ferry supporters to Calcutta. Had I waited for transport on Monday, I wouldn’t have been able to reach the university in time for the orientation session. I am glad I took a bus on Sunday morning,” said Paritosh, who came with his father.
Father and son couldn’t return to Haldia on Monday afternoon because buses of the South Bengal State Transport Corporation that ply between Esplanade and Haldia were few and too crowded.
Sourav Roy, a student of statistics, said he couldn’t figure out the justification behind holding a rally at the city centre on a working day. “Maybe a rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds would have caused less harassment. I knew what I was in for, so I started from home at 7.30am. Buses were few and I clambered into an overcrowded Sealdah-bound bus,” recounted the boy from Uttarpara, Hooghly.
He finds it ironical that parties hold traffic-choker rallies in the name of the masses, only to inconvenience them the most.
Monday’s rally was Mamata’s first big show since Trinamul’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Harvard professor and Presidency mentor group chairman Sugata Bose, who represents Jadavpur as a Lok Sabha MP, was among those on the three-tier dais at the intersection of Bentinck Street and Chittaranjan Avenue. Finance minister Amit Mitra and Dum Dum MP Saugata Roy, both of whom studied at the erstwhile Presidency College, were there as well.
A postgraduate student of English who lives in Beckbagan said her anxious mother made multiple calls to enquire if she had found transport to return home. “She had advised me not to step out on a rally day. But I couldn’t have missed the first day of classes, could I?”
Sampurna Sarkar, who lives in Howrah, said disruptive rallies like Monday’s were a blot on the city. “Fearing that I might face harassment on my way to Presidency, my father accompanied me here. The worst part is that we have to live with the prospect of more such rally days.”
Presidency University reported 100 per cent attendance at the orientation sessions for undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia addressed the students at Derozio Hall before they headed for their respective departments to interact with the teachers.
(Students’ names have been changed to protect identities)