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Durga Puja

Sreebhumi sparks VIP Road chaos: Minister-backed puja unleashes huge traffic emergency

Mamata Banerjee had earlier warned Sujit Bose that VIP Road should ‘not be blocked’ because of his puja

Monalisa Chaudhuri, Snehal Sengupta | Published 18.10.23, 05:31 AM
The Sreebhumi Sporting Club Durga Puja pandal, designed like Disneyland, on Tuesday;

The Sreebhumi Sporting Club Durga Puja pandal, designed like Disneyland, on Tuesday;

Pictures: Bishwarup Dutta

Bengal’s fire and emergency services minister is the chief patron of a Durga Puja that triggers the festival’s biggest traffic emergency in the city.

Calcutta’s most popular route to the airport has already become a nightmare, days ahead of Puja proper, commuters who have had to pass through that stretch of VIP Road in the past few days said.


The gathering of lakhs of people is more painful for those who live in the vicinity of Sreebhumi Sporting Club Durga Puja.

On Mahalaya (Saturday) evening, the police said around 1.5 lakh people visited the pandal. The number was slightly less on Tritiya (Tuesday) but the swell of people still looked scary as the evening rolled into the night.

These people make it to the pandal through an 8-foot wide road, the only way to reach one of the big-ticket pujas in the city.

The crowd in the pandal on Tuesday evening

The crowd in the pandal on Tuesday evening

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier warned fire and emergency services minister Sujit Bose that VIP Road should “not be blocked” because of his puja, but the warning did not seem to have had much of an effect on traffic on the arterial thoroughfare.

The police have been trying out several options to unclog VIP Road and manage the rush to the Sreebhumi puja, including taking buses off the road and pushing them into narrow service lanes and diverting autorickshaw routes.

However, people who have commuted through the area in the past few days or those who live in the neighbourhood still complain of “great inconvenience” caused by a big puja in what is essentially a gully.

“This has been going on year after year. A single puja affects traffic on the entire VIP Road and this harassment continues for as long as 10 days. As a resident of this area, I feel greatly inconvenienced because of the huge traffic snarls during the Puja,” said economist Prasenjit Bose, a resident of Kalindi.

“On the one hand, the chief minister is asking the police to ensure that traffic should not be affected, and on the other, she herself is inaugurating pujas from Mahalaya.... If a pandal is formally inaugurated, it is expected that people will visit it,” said Bose.

A resident of Baguiati, further down VIP Road towards the airport, who travels to Beleghata in central Calcutta every day for work, said: “At other times, it takes me 30 minutes to return home from office. Now it takes me over an hour.”

The police said they were not anticipating such a large crowd from as early as Mahalaya. “Since Mahalaya, we have taken adequate steps to control crowd and traffic in the area,” said an officer of the Bidhannangar City Police.

Buses that ply through VIP Road were either diverted through Jessore Road or made to ply only through the service road.

Buses that travel from Ultadanga to the airport were diverted through Jessore Road, while those plying between EM Bypass and the airport were allowed through the service roads of VIP Road.

Autorickshaws were also pushed into the service roads.

But these service lanes are not meant to take such heavy traffic.

Many who live in these areas said buses and autorickshaws plying in front of their homes were a nuisance. When the city is in festive spirits, they have to keep their windows closed to prevent smoke from entering their rooms.

Elderly pedestrians and children are at risk as vehicles rush in an attempt to make up for the time lost because of the diversions.

The Sreebhumi puja committee had modelled its 2021 pandal on the world’s tallest building — Burj Khalifa, in Dubai. The police had to close it to visitors on Ashtami after its laser shows started pulling tens of thousands of people and the rush was impossible to contain.

This year, the pandal is modelled on the Disneyland.

In August this year, the chief minister, while addressing puja organisers, had warned minister Bose about traffic snarls on VIP Road because of his puja.

Sab cheye dushtumi korey Sujit Bose (Sujit Bose is the most mischievous). He does it (Durga puja) in such a manner that people can’t come from the airport. This time, I will tell the police to ensure that the (traffic around the) airport is not disturbed. Sujit, you will have to see to it while organising the puja,” Mamata said.

Bose told Metro on Tuesday: “It is true that we have a space constraint and the lane leading to the Durga Puja pandal is narrow. However, we make sure that measures are taken from our end, such as employing volunteers to manage the crowds and granting special passes that allow residents to walk into their houses through the exit lane near Dafodil nursing home. Apart from this, we have extensive coordination meetings with the police to manage traffic. Fire engines are also kept on standby to counter any exigency.”

Asked about the inconvenience faced by residents, Bose said he had yet to receive any such complaint.

A resident of Lake Town said life would be “a lot easier” if the Durga Puja crowd was divided between all the pandals in the neighbourhood, instead of one single pandal attracting almost all the attention.

“It is better to check out the big pandals before the rush starts from Chaturthi or Panchami,” said a resident of Garia, who visited Sreebhumi on Mahalaya.

Last updated on 18.10.23, 09:50 AM

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