Traffic terror

TRAFFIC DEPARTMENT IS SERIOUS IN THEIR PLAN TO STREAMLINE THE SYSTEM, BUT THAT PLAN NEEDS AN EXECUTION, WRITES

 To ensure effective regulation and smooth flow of traffic on roads and minimize risk of accidents, the Traffic Department has recently decided to launch a valley wide drive against the use of mobiles while driving and tinted glasses on cars. To ensure that offenders of traffic rules do not go unpunished the Department has, as it claims invoked a novel Run away Challan System which envisages dispatching of Challans to homes of the violators of law even if they manage to evade the blue cops on roads. In a function organized by Traffic Department in Srinagar last week the Deputy inspector General (Traffic) Vijay Kumar stated the obvious that use of tinted glasses and mobile phones while driving distracts the attention of the driver and results quite often into road traffic accidents. The DIG said ‘special squads’ have been formed which will remove the black coatings and fine the offenders. Likewise, he warns mobiles would be seized besides imposing  fine on the guilty. SP Traffic Srinagar Maqsood-ul-Zaman has also stressed on the need of educating people especially drivers of the passenger vehicles about traffic rules and cultivating the habit of use of parking slots.

Laudable intentions. But unless translated into action mere good intentions would do nothing. Even divine commandments wouldn’t serve anything unless they are followed in letter and spirit and transgressors brought to the book. It is strong will or lack of it that ultimately determines the fate of any drive launched. As S.T. Coleridge has aptly described: ‘Every reform, however, necessary will by weak minds be carried to an excess which will, itself, need reforming’. Same is the case with a body of good laws you want to arm yourself with. Put in command of men showing reckless regard of the laws, the campaign, howsoever good in intent and formulated by best minds, will beg for mercy. For surgical treatment. What happened with the government’s ‘resolve’ of clearing the capital city Srinagar off the dreaded menace of polythene? Why Dal Lake is yet crying and craving for a lease of life, for a fresh breath despite lakes  and Waterways Development Authority coming into existence nearly a decade before. Haven’t we made stringent laws to prevent our forests from being vandalized. Nonetheless, the green gold gets smuggled out under the very nose of the forest officials and Forest Protection Police. Other departments cannot flout with their “shining” progressive reports. Nearly all of us are sailing in the same boat. That explains why our state is famously infamous in being second most corrupt place after Bihar.

       The foregoing account is not aimed to belittle the good efforts of the blue boys and their officers in command chain. If any semblance of change is discernible from the chaotic past on the roads, we all will remain indebted to them. Our good wishes are with them!

       Last year, 2010, J&K Traffic Police published Traffic info (issue-ii). I also received a copy form its editor Syed Muhammad Amin Shah-IPS,Inspector General of Police, Traffic J&K. (Thanks a lot). Besides its splendid get-up, the data, contents, suggestions and valuable information the journal is a treasure trove. When one goes through its pages one gets impressed by the holistic approach followed and the contributions made by the authors especially by the editor. The journal jostled for a place in the weekly column but the summer uprising 2010 demanded and won pre-eminence. That, however, did not make it efface from my memory. Honestly speaking before reading the yearly journal, I was, on my part, holding traffic police solely responsible for traffic mis-management on roads but as I browsed through the pages I realized there are about one dozen departments and organizations which constitute traffic management structure that have to play their part. As
 the main aim of the traffic management is to ensure effective regulations of traffic and safety on roads, main thrust, as has been rightly pointed out, has to be in ensuring (a) volume control and (b) speed control on roads and the various measures undertaken in this respect. The journal has highlighted some glaring facts that show how stinking is our transport policy. The galloping speed at which transport has multiplied over the years has not been keeping balance with the corresponding increase in the road length. The statistics provided are astonishing: ‘As against 19, 808 vehicles registered in 1974-75’, says the J&K Traffic Police publication, ‘as many as 6,68,445 vehicles were registered by March 2009 by Regional Transport Authorities. This clearly indicates that over past thirty years the vehicular population has increased by about 33 times. However, this does not include the vehicles belonging to security forces operating in the valley and others not registered by the RTA’s, but otherwise entering the state. As against 7,315 kms. of road length in 1974-75, only about 21,000 kms. of length of the road stands maintained by various engineering wings up to  March 2009 which indicates two-fold increase of the road length over past about thirty four years. Based on this statistics one can conclude that the density of vehicle has shown a sharp increase from 2.7 vehicles per km in 1974-75 to about 32 vehicles per km. in March 2009’. In Srinagar city (Ganderbal included) the density is 95 vehicles per km. road length and that of Jammu city (including Samba) 145. Add to this the vehicles not registered but plying in the two metropolitan cities, the congestion is all too huge.

       Road traffic accident scenario is, as Mr Amin writes, ‘gory’ J&K. The state ranks thirteen with 48.2 accidents per lakh population as against area wise small state Goa which ranks first with 241.3 accidents per lakh population. The causes, prevention and management of road accidents and increased fatalities have been elaborated and convincingly written and supplemented with documentary evidence and investigations. The writer has been brutally honest in his comments and observations. On under-trained driving he has no reservation to hold: ‘But the driving tests are held to merely appease the routine and the driving schooling is just a formality. This bad practice leads the unqualified persons to possess the driving licenses. Though they have the driving licenses, yet they lack sufficient knowledge about the rules and skills of perfect driving’.

On safe overtaking and keeping safe distance between two moving vehicles  while driving I have learnt that for the first one should start overtaking from a distance of a minimum of 180 meters from the vehicle  which is intended to be overtaken’. For the second, the ‘distance of 60 meters’ has been advised to maintain. There is host of information provided for the benefit of the public.  On revision of transport policy the author has really touched the raw nerve. He has offered of transport policy the author has really touched the raw nerve. He has offered a ‘bitter pill’ and I fully agree with him that those at the helm of affairs have to  ‘swallow’ it down the gullet to ‘cure the serious ailment’: ‘That it is the only public transport which generates the economy at national or at state level and not the personalized transport. The personalized transport leads only to the congestion of road space and adds to the number of accidents. Therefore, transport policy needs to be revised to the extent that only the public transport should be  provided industrial status and not personalized transport. I know that this is a bitter pill but has to be swallowed in an effort to cure the serious ailment of road traffic accidents and colossal damages thereof’.

       To make vehicular population commensurate with road space it is necessary to build, develop and maintain roads, lay parking slots, rationalize transport policy, encourage locals to form transport companies on co-operative basis and provide them soft loans, deploy High occupancy Vehicles (HOVs), lay parking slots and develop stands of various types of vehicles, employ traffic engineering and calming of techniques on roads and intersections, equally important is to clear the foot paths occupied by shop-keepers and vendors which make a big volume of pedestrian traffic vulnerable. But that demands political will and not vote bank politics. Unfortunately every good move here gets crippled because of political intervention. Even it has been noticed that officials having personal and professional integrity, who really want to contribute and serve the society, become the casualty of the apathetic and obstructive approach of the politicians. But given the will
 and resilience even toughest challenges can be negotiated through. Let us not be optimistic. The Traffic management sends the very message.

       Tail Piece: – Decades back plastered walls read: ‘Name one case of smallpox, get a prize of rupees one thousand’.  Soporians shout: Name one cop to manage the traffic at Sopore and bag a prize. The prize you demand.(The author can be mailed at zainagiree@yahoo.co.in)