Entry to world's tallest Durga idol premises stalled

Entry to world's tallest Durga idol premises stalled

Like usual, Durga Puja witnessed an overwhelming number of revellers on the streets from the very beginning, but the festivities started on a not-so-welcome note for the Kolkata Police as its best-laid plans proved insufficient.

Gridlocked roads, stretching  to a few kilometres set the tone for the season in city.
Matters came to a head on Sunday when nearly 5.5 lakh people converged at Deshapriya Park in south Kolkata, where the organisers are showcasing the world’s tallest Durga idol.

 Standing at almost 110 ft, the idol has been talk of the town for the past few months, with organisers launching a promotional blitzkrieg. The flow of people since Friday turned into a tsunami on Sunday and the situation went beyond control. By 6 pm on Sunday, things were totally out of hand and traffic across South Kolkata had come to a standstill.
The situation at the pandal became so chaotic that a near-stampede left 11 people injured.

Sources said the matter drew Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s attention, who instructed Police Commissioner Surajit Kar Purakayastha to take stock of the situation.  After a briefing on the situation from the zonal deputy commissioner, he decided to visit the pandal himself. While the Kolkata Police top brass are known to be extra careful during the season and even deputy commissioners come down on the streets to handle traffic at busy intersections, Sunday was not the police’s moment.

The gridlock was such, with stranded vehicles lined up for kilometres, that the commissioner was forced to take the Metro to reach the spot.

Late in the evening, the Kolkata Police decided to close the ground where the idol was placed, and revellers were turned back. Since Sunday evening, regular announcements were being made in this regard over the public address system at Metro stations.

Sources said the gates to the park could remain shut for the rest of the Puja days as the police are not prepared to deal with the rush. A senior police official said: “Crowd and traffic management plans were made like every year.

Usually, special arrangements are made for popular Puja pandals, but no one could have predicted the situation at Deshapriya Park. No one anticipated such a surge within a couple of hours. Around 60 per cent vehicles in a 10-km radius were heading towards the park and there was hardly any time to work out a solution.”

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