The wedding season is here. This is especially true of the largely Hindu Meiteis. While this is good news for young lovers eager to tie the nuptial knot, it has other consequences which commuters in Imphal would dread to even imagine. The thumb rule henceforth would be to avoid the roads on days considered as auspicious in the Hindu calendar, for impossible traffic jams on these days are a foregone conclusion. What is interesting is, the people have come to accept this yearly traffic nightmare almost as an unalterable fate, pointless to even try and see if there are ways out. While the ordinary citizenry’s sense of helplessness is understandable, we wonder if the government should resign to a similar outlook. Or, should it not think of ways to get around the problem, at least to the extent possible? Traffic jams on the streets of Imphal is not just a matter of inconvenience caused to motorists, but definitely has an economic cost, the most direct of which is the loss of work hours. This loss may not mean much to the government sector where it has become a tradition to do in two days what is doable in a single day. But elsewhere, away from the government establishment, workplaces still chase very strict deadlines, and the losses of work hours meaninglessly on the streets, are considered more damaging.
The government could for instance, regulate the number of cars in wedding processions. There is nothing in the Meitei tradition which says wedding processions of cars have to be a mile or two long. They could very well do with ten cars, and the rest of the wedding guests can at the normal city pace, go straight to the bride’s or the groom’s places, as the case may be. As of today, the lengths of these processions are a show of ego from a feudal past. The cars in these processions are like the plumes on the peacock’s tail, and hence the more the cars there are in them, the more beautiful the strut is considered to be. The rich would do everything to ensure that the heads of their snaking weddings processions touch the brides’ place before the tails left the grooms’. Deflating this ego a little will spoil no wedding or diminish the luck of the newlyweds, but it will do other users of the Imphal streets a great service. There is again nothing in the Meitei tradition which says a wedding process has to move at a tortoise pace. This again is a hangover from the days when brides were carried in palanquins. We strongly suggest the government to do something and introduce at least two traffic regulations during the wedding season. One, put a limit on the number of cars in a wedding procession. Two, put a minimum speed limit on these processions.
Beyond the wedding season, the Imphal traffic management still has plenty left to be desired. Too many motorists still disregard traffic rules and the authorities are doing precious little about it. And since there are no penalties awaiting traffic indiscipline, the indiscipline can only be expected to become conditioned and hardened. This indeed is the reality of traffic in Imphal. Apart from the traffic police personnel at traffic islands, doing their bits of signalling to regulate flow of traffic at major crossroads and junctions, there are no mobile traffic policemen visible to chase and book traffic violators. Even when some are present, as for instance at the traffic roundabout in front of the Governor’s gate, for reasons inexplicable, they merely look on as motorists take a U-turn where they are not supposed to, and thus avoid the roundabout. Can such laxity help in improving the ever increasing traffic snarls in Imphal? Will the concerned department please pull up its socks and begin doing what it is paid to do. Let its personnel on the job be stricter than they are today and give them the power and means to catch and penalise traffic violators. If more personnel are needed, which probably it does, it would be much more to the purpose for the government to go ahead and recruit to augment the shortfall, than to continually expand the armed wings of the police. Rather than incrementally militarise the society, let the government begin also thinking in terms of inclining its police force more towards social and community policing, and what more appropriate way to begin this than by streamlining its traffic policing mechanism.