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Olympic torch makes it through Delhi

Though Rajpath noticed symbolic event, Delhi was gasping for breath long after the Olympic flame had left, report Ravi Bajpai & Sidhartha Roy.
Hindustan Times | By Ravi Bajpai and Sidhartha Roy, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 18, 2008 02:16 AM IST

The Indian government and Delhi Police ended Thursday with a sigh of relief, but Delhi was gasping for breath long after the Olympic flame had left for its next destination, Bangkok.

With a staggering 17,000 policemen and commandos swarming the heart of New Delhi, the torch completed its 2.3 km journey down Rajpath that had been sanitized from even the somnolent babus of the many sarkari buildings around.

The widely feared Tibetan protests were largely non-violent; the police still arrested as many as 267 people for trying to disrupt the run.

"No protester could manage to breach security anywhere in the city," Rajan Bhagat, Delhi Police spokesman, announced at the end of the day. "All attempts to create trouble were thwarted."

In fact, all of Delhi was thwarted.

The police’s paranoiac zeal brought the capital to its knees, forced the early closure of offices, put helpless citizens through enormous trials, and resulted in tremendous suffering for children, the elderly, and ill.

Thousands of commuters were stuck for many hours in endless traffic jams caused by blockades that were put up in central and south Delhi after 2 pm. The effect cascaded to other parts of the capital, and caused traffic hold-ups that lasted well past 10 pm. A terminally ill patient, 38-year-old Rupesh Jain, walked all the way from Sunder Nagar to Hotel Claridges since no public transport was available. "No cab was willing to go anywhere in Lutyens’s Delhi," he told a Hindustan Times journalist who was also walking to our office in Connaught Place.

People heading towards the international and domestic airports were stuck for more than three hours due to congestion on NH-8. Several passengers missed their flights, as did people trying to reach New Delhi railway station.

"My flight from Kolkata landed at 7.30 pm. I have not found a single taxi or auto rickshaw to go home for more than three hours," TR Rustagi, former chief commissioner of customs, told HT from the airport, where he was stranded along with hundreds of other passengers.

The Central Secretariat and Patel Chowk Metro stations were closed from 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. People could be seen thronging the closed gates.

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