Lakhs of commuters in the metropolis and adjoining districts had a harrowing time today as a rally by the ruling Left Front in the city sent normal life into disarray with arterial roads closed and public transport requisitioned to ferry participants.
Left supporters were brought from different parts of West Bengal for the rally to mark 50 years of Food Movement, a show of strength for the alliance reeling under a string of political setbacks.
Not only commuters in the city, but those in the nearby districts as well were affected as hundreds of buses from these places were taken off the roads to bring party workers to the rally at Esplanade in the heart of Kolkata.
City Deputy Commissioner of Police (traffic) Dilip Banerjee said that traffic was diverted from the Dorina Crossing at Esplanade to other roads due to the rally.
At least 100 of the local fleet and over 30 of the long distance fleet of buses run by Calcutta State Transport Corporation were taken by the rallyists thus leaving about 500 for commuters, a state transport official said.
With hundreds of buses having already been off the roads since July 31 with a Calcutta High Court ban on 15-year old commercial vehicles, commuters had a very hard time to reach their destinations. People were forced to walk or hang precariously from buses. A number of schools, fearing harassment of pupils, had declared a holiday.
“State buses are less in number as either vehicles were requisitioned or the staff went to attend the rally,” the CSTC official said.
Joint Council of Bus Syndicates general secretary Sadhan Das said, “Many of our buses are off the roads due to the ban. With buses taken off the routes today, the situation became worse.”
“It is very sad that the ruling party CPI(M) and its allies did not think of the plight of the citizens,” fumed 55-year-old Mrinmoy Bose, who said he was waiting for over half an hour at Rashbehari crossing to get a bus to his office at Salt Lake.
Bisakha Mukerjee of Jadavpur in South Kolkata said it took her two hours to reach her office at Esplanade as buses were unavailable and when she could finally board one, it had to make a long detour with arterial roads leading to the centre of the city closed to facilitate movement of the rallyists.