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October 13, 2013

Kolkata – A Changed City during Pujas

Kolkata – A Changed City during Pujas
Kolkata has evolved as a city, within a span of just 2 years. If the year 2011 is considered as the watershed moment, the differences in the celebration of Durga Puja festivities before and after 2011, are glaringly prominent.
Before 2011, Kolkata was lit up during the Pujas; there was glamour, lights and pandal-hoppers immersed in the festive spirit. But truly speaking, Kolkata was a dirty, ill-managed city. It was a nightmare to Puja revellers.
Post 2011, proper initiatives were taken to make this city better equipped for the Autumn festival. From town planning to making the city green, from proper traffic control to awareness drives, Kolkata finally has proper management in place. The city where beautiful pandals and dirty garbage existed vats side-by-side, now boasts of garbage compactors at different points. The KMDA has lined up several projects for infrastructure development. The major ones among these are – a seven kilometer long flyover between Brace Bridge and Batanagar, a flyover at Raja SC Mullick Road in Jadavpur, the Hooghly riverfront beautification project along 21 kilometer river line along the Grand Foreshore Road, a flyover at Kamalgazi. Once these projects are complete, Kolkata will wear a new identity.
Kolkata has become more eco-friendly when it comes to celebrating Durga Puja; artistes at Kumortuli and other idol-making hubs have switched to lead-free colours. The Maa, Mati, Manush Government has ensured that these talented artisans are insured, and so they have been given Samajik Mukti Card that entitles them to health insurance, other medical benefits, retirement plans etc. The Lakes- the lungs of South Kolkata – now are cleaner, greener and safer. A late-night walk along Southern Aveneue after pandal-hopping at Mudiali and Shibmandir can now be safely taken, thanks to Kolkata Police. This was an outlandish thought a few years back, when people avoided the Dhakuria lakes even in the evenings.
Now, Kolkata Police has acquired unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – to keep the city under constant surveillance. These are being used to monitor crowd movement during Pujas and control traffic across the city. These will be deployed extensively during the immersions too. Top police officers are not leaving anything to chances. They are taking all steps to make sure no untoward incident takes place during Durga Puja. Patrolling vehicles with women officers have their routes earmarked and will patrol key areas like Bowbazar, New Market, Shakespeare Sarani, Park Street and Bhowanipore. These are some initiatives unheard of in Kolkata before.
Proper planning makes a lot of difference. These days, such plans are being well in advance. 20 spots prone to traffic jams during the Pujas have been identified. 4,000 traffic cops have been deployed to manage traffic during the Pujas; 2,000 extra home guards are posted at different parts of the city.
The long serpentine queues and slow moving traffic during festive is history. The green channel is on. Motorists have to spend minimal time at signals; ditto for commuters who avail public transport. The Transport minister has taken one of the boldest moves ever and banned the autorickshaws from plying during the Puja days, 4 PM onwards.
After years of mismanagement, Kolkata has now truly become kollolini, tilottoma.
Picture Courtesy: Swaroop Singha Roy