Jalandhar, March 16
All roads leading to Khatkar Kalan on Wednesday remained virtually choked for more than five hours as Bhagwant Mann was to take the oath as the Punjab Chief Minister.
Several buses, including those of PRTC and private buses hired by the new government for ferrying of Aam Aadmi Party supporters, and private cars remained caught up in the huge traffic snarl. By the time several buses finally landed at the Bhagat Singh’s memorial site, the venue of the event, the pandal had already got full to its capacity and its frontal gates had to be closed.
If reaching the venue was difficult, leaving it was far more difficult. Even as the short function had got over around 1:30 pm, the vehicles remained stranded there past 4 pm. It was extremely difficult for the vehicles to move from the parking lot to the Phagwara-Nawanshahr road on which the memorial is located as there was bumper to bumper traffic.
While VIPs left the venue by choppers and even alternate clear routes were given to all dignitaries who had reached by roads, the commoners remained caught up. Even as Bhagwant Mann had already reached Chandigarh and joined his office, the visitors to his swearing-in ceremony were still stuck up on the highway. No traffic cop was deployed anywhere on the highway by the Aam Aadmi Party government to ensure that the vehicles did not remain halted.
A bigger issue that struck was the traffic on the highway because of Hola Mohalla falling on Friday. Several roadside stalls of langars had been organised. Most visitors at the oath taking ceremony chose to stop their buses and other vehicles at these stops and have langar. This further led to the traffic snarls.
The only relief today was that the toll barrier at Behram was not working today and all vehicles were allowed to pass through freely. The second relief was that it was a relatively good weather today and it did not remain an issue.
Some motorists got so much agitated that they started looking for ways out to escape from the long unending jam. Many car drivers even tried to jump the dividers and cross over to the other side so as to be able to use the relatively free side while returning from the venue.
Senior police officials said: “We believe that over 1.75 lakh people had come to the venue. With such a massive footfall and departure of everyone at almost the same time, such a chaos was bound to happen. Surely, we could not do much about it.”
A bigger problem for many people was the jamming of telephone network. Owing to overcrowding at the venue, the mobile phones had stopped buzzing and the whole network remained jammed for over three hours. Many people found it difficult to catch up for moving back together and had to physically hunt for one another to team up to go back.
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