IMPHAL, May 6: Since February 13 last, the state government has been experimenting with the traffic regulations at the commercial hub of Thangal Bazar and Paona Bazar as pedestrian zones under a specified timing.
The aftermath of the government’s stricture has resulted in gross decline of sale proceeds and personal inconvenience for the business community located in both markets, according to a survey conducted by IFP.
Maipak, a salesman at Samsung store located at Paona Bazar said that he could sell at least ten electronic household items on a daily average before the traffic rules came into effect. “Now, we hardly sell three items in a day”, he said.
Paona Bazar is a shopping centre for designer apparel, household items, electronics etc.
H Nilamani, proprietor of Golden Time Mart stated that the situation is just like opening shop during a general strike. He said that the poor business turnover will reflect on the sales taxes paid to the government. “We have to pay rent, water and electricity bills, at this rate we may be going out of business soon”, he said.
Complaining about the high decibel noise emitted by the serpentine diesel autos in the evening H Nilamani said, ’It wrecks havoc to the hearing of the shopkeepers. The Manipur Pollution Control Board should address the issue instead of organizing poster campaigns for reducing noise pollution.’
At present, vehicular passage is limited from 10 am till 4 pm at both market areas. From 4 pm onwards, diesel autos are routed through Paona Bazar causing further traffic chaos and problems for shoppers and shopkeepers alike.
Anand sells electronic goods at Paona Bazar “Moreh Market”. He lamented that his sales is going down the drain. “It’s better to open shop from 8 till 10 in the morning, close down shop and reopen from 4 pm onwards, the timing in between is best spent doing something else. Sales are down to an all time low”, he said.
The persons interviewed mainly opined that the new traffic norms have been the cause behind poor business. Some mentioned that the ‘pedestrian only traffic’ norm should be scrapped or at least two wheelers should be permitted entry to the Baazar as an alternative respite.
In a similar note, their counterparts at Thangal Bazar voiced on similar tones.
“Definitely, sales have gone down by at least 40 percent”, owner of BK Jain store dealing in iron rods and other construction material said. He stated that the Bazar no longer reflects a shopping area but rather resembles a rural area.
It was stated that Thangal Bazar is a wholesale market and retailers also make purchases in bulk, the lack of transportation facility during the peak hours have forced customers to seek services from other sub markets.
However, it was also recorded that the sales of shops in the peripheral areas have sky rocketed and profit margins are up for local traders and sub dealers.
Further, Thangal Bazar is the main market for purchasing construction material, heavy machinery, edible items, electronics etc.
A ‘Sardarji’ who did not want to be named said that aside from business, the personal convenience of the residents has been greatly affected.
He mentioned that during health related emergencies, it is an annoying task trying to convince the traffic police to let a transportation vehicle inside. “ The patient have risk of succumbing before availing emergency medical treatment, the gates are padlocked by the higher authorities and are not at the spot when needed, we have to run from pillar to post ”, he said.
It was also stated that, persons arriving from abroad with heavy luggage are also in a predicament on how to enter the bazar area during the restricted timing.
Balbir Singh, running a motor parts store opined, “How many kilos can one carry? The airport timing does not facilitate the restricted time zone here.”
Opinion culled from others suggested that the vehicle restriction should be for four wheelers only and passage of bikes and three wheelers should be allowed to mitigate the challenges. Parking should be restricted to only one side of the road to prevent congestion as done in other states, they stated.
Inspector H Rameshwor the officer in charge of Traffic Police said, the traffic police are just the regulating body and not the policy makers.
He stated that the majority residents of the Bazar do not have garages and personal vehicles are mostly kept on the roads, adding that the vehicles of the proprietors and the salesman occupy the parking slots before the traffic norms came into effect. “But relaxations are always made by the traffic police on humanitarian grounds when the residents have the urgency”, he stated.
Mentioning that parking spaces have been allotted at Nagamapal, Hao Keithel, Temporary shed etc, Rameshor added that the parking lots are located at just 100 to 150 yards for the for the Bazar residents and the distance is not intolerable.
He mentioned that the traffic rules are subject to change from time to time and also done so for the welfare and convenience of the public. He suggested that complaints can be addressed to the Traffic Regulations and Parking Committee (TRPC), a traffic regulatory policy making body headed by the Transport Commissioner as the chairman to bring about an amicable solution from all concerned.