Protests paralyse Delhi as Parliament session concludes.
The only solace for them was that unlike on Wednesday, the situation eased considerably by afternoon. A series of protests and rallies towards the fag end of the outgoing Parliament's last session has thrown normal life out of gear in the national capital.
Office-goers found themselves trapped in massive snarl ups as activists of the Anganwadi Workers Federation marched through busy streets of central Delhi.
The march started from Ram Lila Ground to coincide with the peak traffic hours, went over the Ranjit Singh flyover and Tolstoy Marg to reach Jantar Mantar, the limit fixed for all protests.
Anganwadi is a government-sponsored child- and mother-care programme that started in 1975. Its 650,000 centres across the country employ about 1.6 million workers, mostly women.
Thousands of them came to Delhi to lodge their protest alleging the government was not paying heed to their demands.
Yesterday's rally followed five protest marches and rallies of Wednesday, which crippled the city with traffic jams spilling beyond central Delhi and its impact being felt till late in the evening.
"I guess this is the price one has to pay for living in the national capital. Yesterday it took me two and a half hours to cover a distance of 10km. I don't know when will I reach my destination today," said an exasperated Ashish Kapoor, a Connaught Place-based exporter, waiting to cross the Tolstoy Marg-Ranjit Singh flyover.
The Delhi Police have thrown up their hands saying all that they can do is to put additional personnel to guide motorists to alternative routes. "India is a vibrant democracy. Rallies and protest marches are an expression of democracy. We cannot stop them," said Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal.
Delhi being the national capital witnesses year-round rallies and protest marches. In the past rallies were allowed at the sprawling India Gate lawns. However, they were disallowed because of the area's nearness to the high security zone comprising Parliament House, President's House and various ministries.
In its place, the authorities fixed Jantar Mantar on Parliament Street as the permanent venue for all sit-in protests and rallies, while demand for a permanent venue on the city's periphery has been gathering dust for many years now.
"It is getting to be too much. Most of the time you cannot take Parliament Street as it is often closed. I don't understand why they cannot gather at Jantar Mantar rather than insisting on disrupting public life by marching on streets," said Sunita Singh, who opted to walk down 2km to her office at Barakhamba Road from Mandi House rather than wait in the bus to move.
The current session of the outgoing Parliament is slated to end on February 26 and Delhi residents can heave a sigh of relief since fresh elections are slated for April-May. It is unlikely that any massive rally would now be staged until the new government takes office and spells out its policies.
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