BENGALURU: “Political events shouldn’t disrupt traffic. I was on my way to Queen’s Road from Rajajinagar, and got stuck for over one hour in the morning near KR Circle,” said Shailaja R, a businesswoman.
This sums up the frustration of most Bengalureans who couldn’t proceed an inch on Saturday. The reason for the traffic jam from Majestic to K R Circle and other connecting roads for more than two hours was a protest against the Centre called by the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and Karnataka State Youth Congress Committee. It was part of the nationwide protests by the party accusing the Centre of political vendetta in the National Herald case.
Home Minister G Parameshwara during his recent visit to the Traffic Management Centre said that the traffic woes in the city would be addressed soon. Ironically, on Saturday, it was his cabinet colleagues and party workers who brought the traffic to a halt.
The protestors started to gather around 9.30am. The numbers multiplied in no time as top Congress leaders like Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, Bengaluru Development Minister K J George and Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy arrived at Freedom Park, the venue of the protest, around 10.30am. The situation went out of control as traffic police stood as mute spectators. Scores of policemen, including the traffic police, were deployed near the Freedom Park, which did not help matters. What made the situation worse was the haphazard parking of vehicles by Congress supporters.
The traffic movement at Majestic, K R Circle, Anand Rao Circle flyover, Sheshadri Road, Shivananda Circle and Corporation Circle came to a halt, affecting other roads. The only saving grace was when a few cops who were standing near Majestic diverted the ambulances.
The traffic congestion worsened at 3pm when the Congress supporters started leaving the protest venue . The cascading effect could be felt till about 5pm.
When some two-wheeler riders realized that vehicles won’t be able to move till the protestors left, they jumped onto the footpaths and rode away. However, four-wheelers had no option but to crawl for nearly two hours just to cover a distance of less than a kilometre.
Rajesh, a harried commuter, his car couldn’t move an inch at the Anand Rao Circle flyover junction. He reached his office two hours late. “Politicians must not hold the common man to ransom. Ruling party leaders who have to find solutions for traffic problems in the city have themselves hit the streets. This shows their concern,” a frustrated Rajesh said.
Rizwan Arshad, president, Karnataka State Youth Congress Committee, said, “There were about 4,000 people. There may be a few instances of traffic congestion when the supporters left the Freedom Park. Otherwise, there was no traffic jam near the vicinity.”
Asked whether the organisers had a proper plan to ensure that the protest did not affect traffic, he said that there was no such plan.
Denying that the traffic was paralysed on Sheshadri Road, M A Saleem, additional commissioner for police (traffic), said, “There were no such traffic problems today, and the movement of vehicles was normal.”
The area was dotted with banners and buntings. Though the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has got strict orders against display of banners and buntings on the streets, it was the state’s ruling party which had put them up this time round.
When contacted, BBMP commissioner G Kumar Naik said, “We will remove the hoardings on Sunday. We will start penalising protestors who spoil the beauty of the city in this manner. We will also call for a meeting with officials and activists in this regard.”
Rizwan said, “We have removed the small banners. We will decide on Sunday as to who (the BBMP or the organisers) will remove the remaining banners.”