Unruly bikers are a perennial source of concern for Kolkata police despite the early opening of the puja pandals.
The largest celebration in the city was characterized by an early start to pandal-hopping, rowdy motorcycles, and sporadic showers; it is now listed on the Unesco list of “intangible cultural heritage.”
Durga Puja Pandal-hopping
On September 25, Mahalaya occurred. Devipaksha began the following day. However, Durga Puja had already begun for Kolkatans before then.
FD Block Sarbojanin in Salt Lake City, Tala Prattay, and Sreebhumi Sporting Club were among the three pujas that chief minister Mamata Banerjee officially opened on September 22.
Eric Falt, the director, and representative of the Unesco New Delhi cluster was in town to launch a preview exhibition called Durga Puja Art, in which 24 community pujas and two family pujas participated.
As inquisitive people swarmed pandals, police struggled valiantly to maintain the streets clear for VIP mobility. Numerous expensive pujas experienced high attendance during Tritiya (September 28). Tens of thousands of visitors from Chaturthi were seen at Chetla Agrani and Suruchi Sangha (September 29).
This Puja, the rain had the potential to become asura as a cyclonic circulation lingered over the Bay of Bengal. However, the majority of the time, the weather offered the ideal setting for Puja celebrations. The system in the bay shifted away from Kolkata and toward the coast of Andhra Pradesh.
Approximately 65mm of rain fell on the city between Panchami (30 September) and Dashami (October 5). The infrequent showers lacked the force to dampen pandal hoppers’ spirits.
Kolkata’s transportation lifeline overcame obstacles before Puja and delivered when needed. From Panchami to Dashami, more than 37.4 lakh people took the Metro, which has resumed nighttime Puja service after two years plagued by Covid. Despite the trains being full, no major issues were observed.
At stations like Kalighat and Dum Dum, there was significant police and RPF presence, which assisted in crowd management. Fewer people traveled between Panchami and Dashami in 2022 than they did in 2019 when Metro Railway transported almost 46 lakh people. Around 1,80,000 people were transported between Panchami and Dashami by the East-West Metro, which now runs between Sealdah and Sector V.
On Navami evening, an Uber ride for a Jadavpur resident was canceled three times. Around 7.15 p.m., he began attempting to find transportation to New Alipore, and around 8 p.m., he boarded a vehicle.
Between her Dum Dum home and her friends’ homes in south Kolkata, a woman took an Uber.
She traveled between Saptami and Dashami at least six times. For each ride, she experienced an average of two cancellations. During the Puja days, frequent cancellations from app cab drivers were a danger. Many residents of Kolkata indicated they were fine with fare increases but not with arbitrary cancellations.
“I had to wait through three Uber cancellations on Ashtami night before I could get a trip from Park Street to Bondel Road.,” said a local resident of Ballygunge. “One of the drivers inquired as to where I was heading and whether I would be paying in cash. He canceled the trip when I told him I would pay online.,” The 39-year-old man stated.
Many Kolkata residents claimed that drivers would frequently “grill” them before taking them up. It was extremely vexing. The concept of hassle-free travel has gone out the window, according to a woman in Behala, southwest Kolkata.
According to the police, almost 7,000 two-wheeler motorcyclists were convicted for riding without helmets between Sashthi (Saturday) and Dashami in Kolkata. According to an officer, more automobiles were on the road this year compared to the previous two years, resulting in a significant increase in the number of offenses.
“During the Puja, motorcycle riders without helmets proved to be a significant issue. 7,302 two-wheeler drivers were charged. Most of them weren’t eager to put on their helmets because they were going pandal-hopping.,” a traffic department official said. According to the authorities, Ashtami was the day of most of the breaches. A police officer in South Kolkata reported that several of the female passengers refused to put on their helmets.
Except for a few roads that experienced congestion during the peak pandal-hopping hours, traffic was smooth on the Puja days, according to the police. Traffic was high in parts of the EM Bypass, the Rashbehari Connector, Tollygunge Circular Road, and north Kolkata. Particularly dangerous was the confluence of Rashbehari Avenue with SP Mukherjee Road and Sarat Bose Road.
“Despite an increase in the number of vehicles, we made every effort to keep traffic moving, and on the vast majority of arterial highways, we were successful.,” stated a policeman stationed close to Kalighat.
One of the major difficulties for many revelers was locating a legal parking space. As a result, many individuals were compelled to park their vehicles everywhere they could. Wherever typically refers to “no-parking zones” in the context of traffic.
On Saptami, at approximately 10.30 p.m., a group of municipal volunteers and a traffic cop were busy clamping the wheels of a number of cars parked along a section of Southern Avenue close to the Mudiali Club and Shibmandir pandals. A native of Chetla had visited Mudiali and Shibmandir that same evening with his wife, daughter, and elderly aunt. After nearly thirty minutes, he located a parking space. He spotted a police officer with a clamp approaching the automobile as he arrived after one hour. After numerous petitions, he was released.
An army of volunteers labored nonstop to keep the streets tidy as Kolkata celebrated. On all days of the Puja, over 12,000 rubbish collectors and cleaners from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) were at work. Due to the increased number of visitors from outside the city, Kolkata often produces extra waste during the Puja. Despite this, the roadways leading to the majority of pandals were spotless and free of trash.