The rally throng stretching from the dais in front of Victoria House down the Metro channel in Esplanade till as far as the eye can see. Picture by Amit Datta
Spare a thought for us, Didi!
This was the refrain across Calcutta on Tuesday as Mamata Banerjee strode the Shahid Divas dais and stalled the city.
From the schoolgirl stuck in traffic on her way back home to the company executive stranded in a taxi on his way to a meeting, everyone seemed to have a suggestion on how the chief minister could spare her city this commuting nightmare every time she holds a rally.
Metro mirrors the Calcuttan's thoughts.
♦ Stop holding rallies on weekdays, please
A Sunday rally would not only spare lakhs of citizens the harassment that a weekday gathering unleashes, it would also make it easier for those attending the rally to reach the venue. "I reached office two hours late and missed an appointment. Had Mamata Banerjee held the rally on a Sunday or on a Saturday evening, we wouldn't have suffered," said bank employee Sujib Deb.
Rally dates aren't sacrosanct. In 2013, there was no Shahid Divas rally because of panchayat elections. The event was held on January 30, 2014.
♦ Shift from the city centre to the outskirts
A rally in the heart of the city causes greater traffic disruption than one elsewhere. The consequent ripple effect can be minimised by holding a rally as far away as possible from the city centre.
"Political meetings or rallies are frequently held in our state too. But we generally have these on the outskirts of Guwahati and not within the city," said Dibyajyoti Medhi, a postgraduate student from Assam University who was stuck in traffic while heading for Howrah after a weeklong holiday.
♦ Leave the buses, taxis and autos alone
On Tuesday, 80 per cent of the city's fleet of private buses and the bulk of the auto-rickshaws were unavailable because they were used to ferry Trinamul supporters to and from the rally venue. Some auto and taxi drivers were allegedly forced to take the day off from work and attend the rally.
With transport options dwindling, commuters had little choice but to jostle for space in overcrowded Metro compartments not only during the rally but also before and after the event.
♦ Don't park vehicles on thorough fares
Buses hired to ferry Trinamul workers and supporters were parked on JL Nehru Road, CR Avenue, SN Banerjee Road, Old Court House Street, Esplanade East Road, Rani Rashmoni Avenue and even the Park Street flyover.
All these roads are notified no-parking zones but had buses, autos, cars, pick-up vans and even trucks parked in two or three lanes, choking the already painfully slow traffic.
If the police do what the politicians won't - prevent parking on these roads - movement of traffic would automatically improve.
♦ If you must hold traffic-choker rallies, finish our pending Metro projects and flyovers before that
Four ongoing Metro projects have been stalled or delayed by years because of the state government's failure to remove illegal settlements. The government has also allowed two other projects - the Parama-Park Circus and Vivekananda Road flyovers - to drag and nobody knows for sure when they will be ready.
Had the ruling party been proactive about fast-tracking these projects, Calcutta would have moved better on Tuesday.
♦ Restore our right of way by repairing the potholes
The Bypass, Diamond Harbour Road, Kidderpore Road, Karl Marx Sarani, BT Road and Jessore Road are in a shambles with potholes that are growing in depth and girth. The government and the civic body have done little about it except play pass-the-buck while commuters suffer.
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