While the Manipur traffic police’s new drive to enforce parking norms in Imphal’s two busy commercial streets of Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar is welcome, the brutal blitzkrieg yesterday in which the police literally swooped down and damaged vehicles parked in the Paona Bazar area was unfortunate. It was unfortunate for no other reason than that there was no warning issued to the vehicle owners that the parking norm introduced about two months ago was to be enforced without compromises from the date. The government had indeed prohibited parking on these streets and an alternate parking space was created along the western bank of the Naga River after evicting a vegetable vendors market there, causing much heartbreak to these hapless daily wage earners. But Imphal residents, including the sporting vendors, generally accepted the move in the belief that the pain was for a greater common good of Imphal city.
The new parking norm worked for some days before the authorities forgot it had introduced the norm, and consequently vehicle users too soon came to not give two hoots about the new norm. The vehicles were back on the busy streets, congested it as before. All this was happening right before the noses of traffic policemen, reinforcing the belief that the new norm was just another one of those laws of the Manipur government which had a value only on paper and not in practice. Soon enough the traffic chaos in the Bazar area was back to where it was. This newspaper had even commented that the government deserved to be taken to court by the vendors who were evicted to create the new parking space, for the purpose for creating it was being allowed to be defeated so casually and callously. All of a sudden the traffic authorities seem to have woken up from its slothful slumber and swoop down causing much distress to unsuspecting vehicle owners who had parked their vehicles on Paona Bazar having been led to believe the new parking norm was dead and gone already. Many of them ended up with damaged vehicles as well.
A stitch in time would have saved nine. Had the traffic authorities made an effort to ensure the public of its intent of enforcing the new norm beforehand, nobody, or at least not many would have been so blatant about jumping it. In this sense, the fault for the ugly incident yesterday was as much of the traffic authorities. The department should have shown some humility and courtesy by at least issuing a warning that vehicles would be confiscated and their owners penalised if they continued to park their vehicles in the prohibited areas. The objective should have been to enforce a law and not ensnare unsuspecting people into a trap and then punish them. That the latter has actually happened does betray an inborn attitude of the policing system in the state and indeed the entire country. The intent of policing in this case is not so much to ensure the law runs smooth to the benefit of everybody, but to demonstrate a sadistic pleasure in making everybody know the power over ordinary people that those in the commanders’ seats of the state wield. If humility is still considered relevant, the department at least should tender a public apology for what happened at Paona Bazar yesterday.
Other than the unnecessary hiccup caused by the brutish nature of the police action, there can be no argument about it that what is being done is an absolute necessity. In fact, this should be just the beginning. As vehicles continue to crowd Imphal city, city authorities must be prepared to even introduce no engine vehicle areas within the city. These areas could then be open only to pedestrians and cyclists. Apart from decongesting, the city would suddenly begin to acquire a manageable as well as a healthy clean look. Such an outcome would be priceless. There is another thing that traffic authorities must enforce. Public transport vehicles, such as shared auto-rickshaws and minibuses must be allowed to stop only at certain designated stops. At this moment, they stop wherever a putative passenger waves, regardless of where they are, sometimes almost causing accidents. Tough measure have to be taken to ensure the laws are respected, but let us once again reiterate the point that the authorities must change their attitude – let the motive be to make everybody respect the law for their own good, and not trap people just to punish them and get cheap thrills out of it.