All schools reopen, heart of Kolkata clogged


KOLKATA: As all schools reopened on Wednesday, key roads like AJC Bose Road, Circus Avenue, Ballygunge Circular Road, Rawdon Street, Loudon Street, Park Street and Theatre Road collapsed under the pressure of cars ferrying school children, leading to a grid-lock in swathes of south and central Kolkata. The traffic crawled and commuters sweated out in the heat all day long with snarls persisting till evening, long after the last school had dispersed. The reopening of the two La Martiniere schools after two years — especially the junior sections where nearly every child arrived in a private car — led to a gridlock in all streets around the school — Rawdon Street, Loudon Street, Theatre Road, Park Street, Circus Avenue and Sarat Bose Road.

When it was afternoon and time for schools to disperse, the situation hadn’t changed. Though more police were deployed to control the tails of traffic snarls, AJC Bose Road (from Moulali to Exide), Ashutosh Mukherjee Road (from Jadubabur Bazar to Exide), Sarat Bose Road (from Public Vehicles Department to Minto Park), Loudon Street and Rawdon Street stayed chock-a-block. Kolkata traffic police continued to send updates of congestions on these roads till 3.25pm. If the cops were looking for some brief respite after the morning rush, breakdown of vehicles on Maa flyover, the derailing of a tram at the AJC Bose Road-Elliot Road crossing and a procession on CR Avenue (from Yogayog Bhavan towards Mahajati Sadan) made the matter worse. The repercussions were felt till 6pm in the evening. The situation became such that top officers of the traffic department had to hit the streets to convince parents to remove their cars from the road. According to police, the first challenge surfaced when the La Martiniere School for Boys began entry of students from the Moira Street gate but did not open the gate on Rawdon Street to control the crowd. But that led to a huge queue of cars and choked all streets.

“Since Wednesday was the first day of school after two years, after dropping children on Moira Street, parents insisted on waiting till the kids were safely inside the gates. As vehicles lined up, the tail crossed Theatre Road and reached Park Street in no time. Its cascading effect led to a gridlock in the entire area where four other schools — La Martiniere for Girls, Birla High, Ashok Hall and St Xavier’s — are situated. Soon, traffic flow on even Maa flyover was impacted,” explained an officer.

Cops then realized most vehicles were trying to wait near Auckland Park to pick up the guardians again. Many tried returning to school using Robinson Street. “We tried to increase the area of circulation of movement of these vehicles moving in loops, but the plan had to be abandoned as several key roads could not take more pressure. The situation was worse between 8.15am and 9am and again between 12.10pm and 1.30pm,” said an officer.

There are several other traffic peeve points due to schools:

Syed Amir Ali Avenue where Modern High School and Queen of the Missions are situated; Darga Road that has Don Bosco and Mahadevi Birla World Academy; and AJC Bose Road where St James, Pratt Memorial and Frank Anthony are situated.

A senior officer at Lalbazar said they were a bit lenient on the first day but would slap violators with traffic fines from Thursday. Kuntak Ghosh, a parent took to Twitter: “Please make a permanent fix to this. dispersal happens every day but today is exceptionally slow. Many kids are inside school or will take much long to reach back home.”

Cops said they held an emergency meeting with school principals on Wednesday evening and asked them to de-reserve the entry gates for students. “We expect some relief from Friday,” said an officer. Several schools are still struggling for solutions to tackle heavy traffic rush in the initial 15-20 minutes after the classes get over for the day. Across different stretches of south Kolkata, TOI came across school vehicles parked in two lanes. However, to their credit, cops managed to keep the main thoroughfares clear of any illegal parking and traffic — though very slow — kept moving at all point of time in other affected areas.