Thursday, November 26, 2009

LEFT RALLY DRIVES CITY RED

LEFT RALLY DRIVES CITY RED
Thousands of protesters march on Anand Rao Circle flyover, causing a massive traffic pile-up on Seshadri Road and in and around Majestic; commuters fume, but police just throw up their hands
BANGALORE MIRROR BUREAU


When the Freedom Park in the central part of Bangalore was opened 10 months ago, it was expected to liberate Bangaloreans from traffic jams caused by protests and rallies. But on Wednesday, thousands of Bangaloreans fumed again as they were caught in a nearly 3-km traffic pile-up. With nearly 10,000 people marching under the banner of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) from Majestic to the Freedom Park protesting against the Food Security Bill, the six-lane Seshadri Road was jammed for over two hours. So much so that even the flyover above Anand Rao Circle was closed for traffic as it was chock-a-block with protesters.
The effect of the jam on Seshadri Road could be seen on roads that link other parts of the city. What raised motorists’ temper was not the gridlock, but the lack of prior warning from the traffic police.
The mayhem started around 10 am when protesters marched from Chikkalalbagh near the City Railway Station to Freedom Park, venue of the public meeting presided by Left party bigwig Prakash Karat. The motorists, who were caught unawares, used expletives at the traffic police for not streamlining traffic flow. What pushed up their frustration levels was the scorching heat and the
pollution caused by emission from vehicles.
Two-wheeler rider Anantha Rai, a businessman and a resident of Malleswaram, yelled, “Why can’t this situation be managed better. It looks like the cops have no idea what they are doing. Isn’t it stupid on their part to allow the rally on a flyover? It is not legal for pedestrians to walk on the flyover and the police are breaking rules by stopping vehicular movement on the flyover.”
Though the police maintained they cannot stop people from attending public rallies, motorists were in no mood to listen. “How can you give them permission to stomp the streets during the peak hour?” they asked. COPS CLUELESS Praveen Sood, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic and Security),“We agree there was a jam and it was confined to the Majestic area. But unfortunately, the jam that took place due to the protest affected areas like Seshadri Road, Majestic and Shantala Junction, from where traffic cannot be diverted. But we did not have an inkling that so many people would turn up for the protest. If a small group had come, then their movements would have been restricted to the side of the roads. But this protest had many volunteers and that is why things went slightly out of control. Unfortunately, this particular strike took place on the roads on which people cannot be stopped from going.Tomorrow, there is another protest, but this time we will be better prepared.” The police claimed helplessness. A police official from Upparpet said, “The traffic has been uncontrollable since 10 am. People are rushing in from the railway station and the Kempe Gowda bus station. For the last one hour, we are struggling to manage the motorists. Most of them have taken other routes to reach their destinations. When they reverse the cars, another jam is created. This is frustrating for us.” Since it was peak hour, many were late to office. After some time, the stretch from Majestic to KR Circle was covered with party w o r k e r s ,
most of whom didn’t even know their purpose of visit. Two-wheeler rider Pai Venkat, a techie who was racing against time to reach MG Road, said, “What the hell are these people doing? It has taken me one hour to reach Anand Rao Circle from Platform Road. The traffic management is ridiculous.”
Venkat maintained he could
have either changed his
travel schedule or the
route had he been alerted about the rally. Some motorists like Gopal Krishna Rao slammed the traffic cops for lack of common sense. “Is this the way to manage traffic? They should have left the rally workers walk below the flyover and let the vehicles move over it. Instead, they have allowed the rally workers over and under the flyover.”
For some, the crawling traffic gave some heart-pounding moments. Vijay, a techie with Reliance Systems, said, “I am not sure if I will be able to swipe in on time at my office.”
While the motorists blamed the police, the latter pointed an accusing finger at the organisers of the rally. “We did not expect thousands of people to take part in it, which is why everything went out of control,” a cop explained sheepishly.
But the bottomline is the rally had wasted two hours of thousands of motorists. This was one of the worst traffic jams in recent months.

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