Fee booths stay shut at airport

Cars pass by unmanned booths along the exit lanes of the airport on Tuesday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

Dum Dum: Free airport parking unofficially extended beyond 10 minutes and car congestion in the exit lanes vanished as the booths remained unmanned for the third consecutive day since three attendants were arrested for an alleged assault.

Policemen deployed in the exit lanes gestured to motorists to keep moving past the empty booths. Many appeared confused - some were pleasantly surprised - at not having to stop at the booths to hand over their time slips, as is the system.

A police patrol in front of the terminal ensured that cars did not stick around for longer than it takes to drop or pick up someone. Personnel from the Central Industrial Security Force were also spotted regulating the traffic flow.

Regular visitors to the airport would have noticed the absence of any build-up of cars either in front of the terminal or in the exit lanes.

A senior officer in the Bidhannagar police commissionerate said many passengers and visitors had filed complaints about parking attendants deliberately slowing traffic flow through the exit lanes to ensure that more vehicles exceed their 10 minutes of free parking time. The parking fee is a flat Rs 100.

Captain Sarvesh Gupta, the chairman of the airline operators' committee, had also written to the airport authorities about parking mismanagement. "Since the time the present vendor has taken over, there have been multiple issues related to vehicular movements/parking and related harassment to general public and airport staff. Traffic jams have suddenly become common at the exit tolls, which generally was not the case until recently and particularly before the new vendor SS Enterprise took over."

The attendants arrested on Sunday had allegedly heckled and pushed actors Koushik and Riddhi Sen the previous evening when they intervened in a parking-fee dispute involving a doctor.

Bidhannagar police said they had held at least 10 meetings with representatives of SS Enterprise, which has been managing parking at the airport for around three months.

Indranil Banerjee, an official of the agency, claimed that congestion at the exit gates was "inevitable" because of many flights arriving one after the other. "Around 400-500 cars pass the exit gates during peak hours," he said.

Banerjee also accused the police of threatening his team with more arrests.


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