“God knows what will happen when Obama comes.” When paint dealer Chandrakant Kotak said this, he probably echoed the fears of several commuters who got a taste of how a VVIP visiting Mumbai could inconvenience them.
Even as the city fears US President Barack Obama’s visit on November 6 and 7 will cause a near-shutdown, commuters on some of the arterial roads had a harrowing time due to traffic jams due to road diversions for President Pratibha Patil’s visit on Thursday.
The Western Express Highway, Mahim Causeway, and Walkeshwar and Haji Ali junctions remained clogged although the traffic police had diverted traffic to ensure smooth flow especially during peak hours.
Kotak, 59, complained that his business suffered due to the President’s visit. “Painters, who were to come to my shop to collect paints, were delayed by two hours because of traffic on the Western Express Highway,” Kotak said. “They should have just sent her [Patil] by helicopter.”
The traffic police said there were “minor snarls” during peak hours but traffic moved slowly throughout the day. “We did not receive any calls from commuters saying they were inconvenienced,” said an officer from the traffic control room requesting anonymity.
NP Rane senior police inspector of Vakola traffic chowky, said: “There was no traffic jam. It is just that there was a 30-minute delay in reaching Bandra from Vile Parle.” Commuters disagreed. “The road leading towards the Western Express Highway was closed at around 12.45pm and I had to wait at the Marol — Saki Naka signal for 10 minutes,” said Ganesh Dangat, 39, taxi driver.
Some commuters said Andheri-Kurla road was deserted after Patil had left from The Intercontinental The Lalit at Sahar to Raj Bhavan in Walkeshwar. Locals at Sahar claimed taxis and autos were prevented from heading towards the international airport between noon and 12.30pm, to clear the way for the President.