KOLKATA: From boom to bust, Kolkata Police’s dream project — the Rs. 70,000 a piece boom barriers — that had began operation at in south Kolkata exactly a year ago, are now lying defunct either perennially blocking portions of a footpath or removed and disconnected of electricity with the pole tied with a tree or placed on the roadside, to allow jaywalkers break rules at ease, as has been the norm in most parts of the city.
Work of installation of the city‘s first set of pedestrian boom barriers had begun on February 7 last year at Exide crossing. On February 19, the first trial run was conducted before the systematic pedestrian crossover – the first of its attempt in the city – began operation from March. There were plans to set up over 1000 such barriers across 125 major crossings in the city.
However, exactly a year on, unruly pedestrian movement coupled with technical glitches has grounded the high tech attempt to in jaywalking and now the machines are simply gathering dust blocking a portion of the pavement.
Even the government seems to have done away with the experiment, as they did not install the full set of machines across all four corners of the street at any other crossing after Exide and partly at Esplanade. Moreover, the civic authorities have started the groundwork for constructing a pedestrian foot over bridge at the Exide crossing after they realised that the boom barriers were not enough to prevent pedestrians from walking across the busy intersection.
“We had tried our best to enforce the systematic pedestrian crossover but mainly because of pedestrian apathy, the move could never take off full fledged. At times when our officers had tried to force people to stay behind the barriers, civic volunteers have even faced assaults leave aside the regular dose of abuses,” said an officer of South traffic guard.
On its first anniversary, TOI found the barriers at Exide crossing lying defunct with broken hooters, missing sirens, stolen sensors and immovable arms. While the 5 metre long arm of one of the defunct machines on the footpath near the Nandan exit of Ranindra Sadan Metro station was found tied to a lamp post to prevent it from falling down and injuring pedestrians, the one on the opposite footpath of Maidan police station has been completely uprooted and now rests beside a dump yard behind the Maidan police station premises.
TOI has time and again reported how pedestrians flout the norms at the Exide crossing in spite of repeated police attempts to toe them in line. However, commuters continued to duck or skip the barriers and even pull and push it leading to the damages. The cops had even put plastic barriers like cow catchers under the boom barriers, but unruly pedestrians allegedly broke them. The situation is similar even at Esplanade, where TOI had reported on August, about an uprooted barrier arm being used by hawkers to prop their stall shades. The prop ropes were removed following the publication of the report but the arm still lies in neglect at one side of the footpath over there.
“The barriers were set up on an experimental basis and based on how it functioned at the crossing we would have taken a final call on installing the same on other major crossings in the city. It has had some glitches and some negative reactions but we are continuing with the process even now. Meanwhile, we have started installing manual and lesser expensive barriers at other intersections like Golpark, Burrabazar, Posta and Chingrihata,” said a senior officer of Kolkata Police.
However, TOI found even the lesser expensive barriers installed near Golpark crossing ahead of the bridge, too has suffered damages and is now out of operation with good old ropes being used by civic volunteers to rein in passengers from jaywalking.