Lack of proper planning by Chennai city traffic police ahead of Flag Day celebrations at the Annai Velankanni church in Besant Nagar, resulted in unusually clogged roads in areas near the shrine on Thursday evening.

Traffic movement was sluggish on many roads as scores of devotees poured in from various places, including Kancheepuram and Pazhaverkadu. Motorists were fuming at the slow-moving traffic. “I started from Chamiers Road at 6.55 p.m. I usually reach my house in Nehru Nagar, Adyar in fifteen minutes. But today, it took me nearly an hour,” said Apoorva, who works in a private firm in Nandanam.

Anjana Kumar, a resident of Adyar who was on her way to her office in Anna Salai, had a similar experience.  “I started from my house at 5.30 p.m., and it took me more than an hour to reach Anna Salai via Kotturpuram. Between Madhya Kailash and Kotturpuram, traffic moved at a snail’s pace,” she said. Kamarajar Salai was among the other roads chock-a-block with vehicles.

Only around 8.30 p.m. did traffic in these roads begin to clear up.

Devotees stopped for water, adding to the chaos. “For the benefit of the devotees, water and buttermilk were served from pandals installed at various locations. When they crossed the roads to have them, traffic was disrupted,” said a traffic police officer posted at Alwarpet.

Many motorists did not know the reason for the traffic snarls. “It was only when I asked a policeman did I know the rush to the church festival had caused them. I was surprised that the police had not planned ahead to avoid this situation,” said Anjana.

A senior police officer said the traffic problem resulted from the greater turnout of devotees this year. “We had arranged diversions in localities around the church. Senior traffic police officers were also on the spot to ensure smooth flow of traffic,” said a senior police officer.

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