July 22, 2009

Kolkata comes to a standstill

KOLKATA,21st July: Vehicles were stalled, buses were re-routed and metro trains were brimming with commuters here on Tuesday as traffic across the city plunged into chaos because of a rally held by the Trinamool Congress.

As tens of thousands of Trinamool supporters flocked to Central Kolkata in a multitude of processions, traffic in many of the city’s arterial roads was forced to come to a standstill. Some of the city’s principal roads had to be cleared to allow processions to snake their way to the site of the public meeting.

Several roads remained choked even hours after the rally was over. “The city police had deployed 3,000 policemen to control the crowd and five ambulances in case of an emergency,” said Javed Shamin, Deputy Commissioner (Detective Department), Kolkata Police.

Students on their way home from school were stranded even as some schools had declared half-day sessions in anticipation of the rush.
Business takes a blow, schools & offices deserted
Dalhousie came to a standstill on Wednesday as 1.5 lakh Mamata Banerjee sup-porters packed into a 5-sq-km radius. Attendance was thin at most offices in the city's commercial hub, and work even less. Many schools in the area shut down in view of the bandh-like situation'. At Writers', it was an overwhelmingly holiday mood. Attendance was officially normal, but several employees sneaked off to attend the Trinamool Congress rally while many others including some ministers sat glued before TV sets that beamed live footage of Mamata's call for change. Central government offices in Dalhousie registered just 50% presence.
The picture was the same at state government offices, like West Bengal Industrial Development Finance Corporation and West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation. Tapan Bhattacharya, a retired employee of Food Corporation of India, who had come to Kolkata with the twin objectives of expediting his pension papers and attending the Trinamool rally, was happy that he made it to the rally but disheartened that there was nobody to attend to him in the food ministry's office. A central government employee said that most of the staff had taken leave in advance to avoid the chaos. "It has become a yearly ritual," he said. An HDFC Bank official at Gillander House pointed out that there was hardly any customer. Gillander House, which has over 100 private and government offices, itself had skeletal staff presence.
Ironically, it was left to hawkers and owners of roadside stalls to keep the wheels of commerce moving in the city's business district. Md Umar, a cellphone accessories vendor at Chandni, made brisk business selling mobile phone covers to rallyists on a rainy day. Shakil Hossain of Chandni managed to sell off his lot of rechargeable pocket torches. Roadside gar-ment vendors near Great Eastern, too, had a field day. Many schools chose not to take a risk. A few in central Kolkata shut down, asking students to come on a weekly holiday. Several others rescheduled their timings.
Even schools far off from the rally venue like South Point and St James saw low attendance. Loreto Dharamtola on Lenin Sarani declared Tuesday a holiday and will stay open on Saturday. "I didn't want students to get caught in the chaos," said principal, Sister Mercy. Calcutta Girls off Wellington Square, Calcutta Boys on SN Banerjee Road and Welland Gouldsmith at Bowbazar gave over a few hours earlier.

TNN 22 July 2009, 05:02am IST

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