By Rajkumar Bobichand
Recently the problems of traffic in Imphal have been widely debated in media circles in Manipur and other social networks particularly Facebook. With the restriction of vehicular movement in Khwairamband Keithel, introduction of two low floor buses and declaration of the Khwairamband area as pedestrian zone, the government of Manipur particularly city managers and traffic control police seem consider the problem as if it is solved.
However, the reality is that the traffic situation in Imphal city gets worse than before. The worst is the unnecessary traffic congestion created by mismanagement on special occasions. The traffic problem in Imphal city still persists.
We all know that traffic congestion is a condition on road networks that occurs as use increases, and is characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased vehicular queuing. The most common example is the physical use of roads by vehicles. When traffic demand is great enough that the interaction between vehicles slows the speed of the traffic stream, this results in some congestion. As demand approaches the capacity of a road or of the intersections along the road, extreme traffic congestion sets in. When vehicles are fully stopped for periods of time, this is colloquially known as a traffic jam or traffic snarl-up.
The parts of the Imphal city where most of the traffic stuck are Nityaipat Chuthek, the part of the National Highway popularly known as Secretariat Mamang, Keishampat Junction, Wahengbam Leikai, Nagamapal, Khoyathong, Sanjenthong, Kopnung Mamang, New Checkon.
The generally considered causes of traffic congestion are – the breadth of the road is too narrow to accommodate the demand of vehicles; Shortage of off-road parking which means people park on the roads and so increase congestion; People not using public transport- either it is less convenient, too expensive or not available; and more people own and use cars.
Although almost all these general causes of traffic congestion are applicable in case of Imphal city, common people experience the worst traffic congestion when the city managers and the State Home Department particularly the Traffic Police take too much care and concern for the so called VIPs only totally neglecting the convenience and welfare of the common people for whom the VIPs exist. The most recent experience of unnecessary traffic congestions were on the days when the Oath-taking and Swearing-in-ceremonies of the new ministry of Manipur were conducted at the Raj Bhavan.
When such occasions occur where few people participate, the easiest way of traffic regulation carried out the by the authority is the blockage of entry at select points like Moirangkhom, Keishampat Junction, Wanghengbam Leikai, Nagamnapal Machin, Khoyathong or Kangla Park Gandhi Avenue Machin, Konung Mamang. This is just like the Reserve Area during British colonial rule.
Some questions crop up. Is it not possible to ensure the security and movement of those who would participate in such occasions and provide their parking lots without causing inconveniences of such traffic snarl-up to the common people? How school going children are riding costly motorbikes speeding up and overtaking from either side as they like in crowed roads? When they appear their Secondary and Senior Secondary examinations, they must be hardly 15 to 17 years old? And what are their ages in their driving licence? What is wrong with the ministers and bureaucrat officers coming from north towards south to take the turn at Moirangkhom and enter Secretariat without stopping the common people who are going towards north along the National Highway?
The traffic congestion on special occasions is very different from the traffic congestion in Imphal city in normal conditions. Without construction and development of roads and its network and development of public transport system, changing the attitudes, behaviour of the persons who drive particularly those the bigger and costlier vehicles owned by those people who become rich overnight. They want to go faster even though there is no space to overtake on all sides. This applies to the diesel run autorikshaws and Magic Tata vehicles who ferry commuters as the government fails to provide other public transport system. Although some traffic police really work hard braving the heat of the sun, rains and dusts, some of the personnel on duty in market areas don’t bother about proper regulations, instead they will wait for opportunity to take bribe from those who violate traffic rules. Some of the police vehicles which belong to the police department speed up as if they are in emergency even though it is not on duty. Sometimes they are without registration numbers.
The traffic education needs to be given properly. The authority needs to learn from others like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. They also should take the help of the experts in this field. The traffic regulation in Imphal city needs to be handled holistically after a systematic research and analysis. The mindset considering Khwairamband and VIP area only Imphal city needs to be changed.