Editorial – Method and Madness

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Traffic control in Imphal is better than it was a few months ago. Traffic light system has been reintroduced and at some of the busy traffic junctions, this has come as a welcome change. However, what is still needed is a strict enforcement of compliance with the signals. On a routine basis, despite the signals for halt, many vehicles would simply continue to inch forward until they nearly block the road disrupting smooth flow of traffic from the other end, hindering everyone in the process. This would remind vehicle users of Delhi 25 years ago before Kiran Bedi, or Crane Bedi, as she was known as with awe at the time, came into the scene and decided to discipline everybody on the road. Anybody who crossed the stop line after the stop signal by even a few inches were hauled up and fined, vehicles parked wrongly or in prohibited area were simply without further warning hauled away by her fleet of craned vehicles. Owners then would have to have their vehicles released after paying fines and in all likelihood with an additional penalty of their vehicles dented in the rough hauling by the cranes. Within months, traffic discipline internalised in every vehicle user in Delhi, and every traffic sign was taken seriously. There were still many who would break traffic norms, but they would not do so blatantly. They were made acutely aware they could be in for serious trouble if caught and hence did what they did stealthily with glances over their shoulders to see if traffic policemen were around. What Manipur, in particular Imphal, needs at this moment is precisely such a disciplining. But that would need an avatar of the state’s own version of Crane Bedi. Or preferably, without the need for any iconic figure to lead the charge, the traffic policing system itself can be put through a transformation. Apart from the signal personnel, there ought to also be some standby policemen and vehicles to chase down and fine traffic violators. As it happened in Delhi, a month or two of such a show would set things right considerably. Apart from straightening out discipline at traffic junctions, traffic norms as to where U-turns can be made and where this is prohibited should also be made clear. As of today, everybody makes a U-turn at their own sweet will, sometimes even atrociously putting traffic flow at a halt. Lane crossing as well as overtaking norms should also be spelled out and enforced strictly.These suggestions are with a view not only to the immense inconveniences commuters, pedestrians and vehicles owners are faced with using the Imphal roads, but also the rising cases of fatal accidents witnessed in the state of late. True many of these accidents are on account of reckless driving, but not always. If traffic regulations were enforced strictly and scientifically all these while, many of these unfortunate accidents probably would not have happened at all. What is true today is, because of the absence of rules, or more likely, because of the absence of any official will to enforce them, our roads have actually become dangerous for everybody, pedestrians, 2-wheeler or 4-wheeler engine vehicle users. Everybody drives as if he were the only one on the road. Not only this, sight seers drive up to the apex of the BT Road flyover, stop their vehicles, get out of their cars and admire the view of Imphal’s bazaars from that elevated vantage, unmindful of the fact that this is prohibited or that they are causing immense inconvenience to others using the same flyover. Even worse than this, the Singjamei Bridge, Keishamthong Bridge and many more in the Imphal suburb have conveniently come to be used as parking spaces with traffic authorities turning the other way and pretending not to see. What needs to be done is perhaps to make the issue of driving license much stricter. Today everybody has it, and arguably, Manipur is the Indian state where driving license can be most easily acquired. Anybody here would vouch that for a small premium paid to touts, a license can be made within hours for any class of vehicle. As no verification of the applicant or his driving skill is made, many who would disqualify on account of bad knowledge or traffic rules, driving skills or else under age status can also walk away with this vital document for a song. The clean up process therefore cannot leave out this office. Otherwise, the entire exercise would be reduced to another case of the Meitei fable of Keibu Keioiba fetching water in a hollow bamboo tube.

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