That Manipur and more so Imphal, is now bustling with vehicles almost to the point of congestion, given the narrow nature of roads needs no mention. According to State Transport Department records (2011), 14, 0310 motor vehicles including 99, 170 two wheelers and 18, 7466 vehicles four wheelers were in circulation while a few hundreds if not more can be added to these figures of vehicles registered in other states and brought into the state illegally. Ironically, the traffic in Imphal are the worst at marked traffic islands and points: at Keishampat, BT Road Traffic Point, Khoyathong, North AOC, Chingmeirong Khongnang Ani Karak and Bapupara. Further, traffic roundabouts, which are elsewhere used to ensure smooth flow of traffic becomes the total opposite in Imphal. The traffic round before the Raj Bhavan is also where most traffic snarls take place. Interestingly, a blame game exists when it comes to the issue of traffic snarls. One group says that it is all because of the sheer number of vehicles on the roads, which are not getting smaller any wider. The other group points the blame on the lack of a proper urban planning process and initiative.
The pace of urban life, the emergence of a socially upward going section aided by the easy availability of loans and financial installment packages for buying vehicles all help to increase the number of automobiles on the road. The pace of buying vehicles is such that there is a growing size of households where people are outnumbered by vehicles. It also helps that there is no system in place to regulate the number of vehicles in Imphal. In this context, the responsibility for managing traffic on the roads falls on the concerned departments but largely, this area is severely lagging behind. Externally of course, Imphal now boasts of certain systems that are meant to control traffic jams on the roads. Traffic lights were brought into the picture with much fanfare and expectations that it would help streamline the movement of vehicles. On the face of it all, it looked like a good beginning indeed and more so, because there was a semblance of efforts being made to ‘traffic educate’ the people. But it wasn’t the common man who was at fault: it was the VIPs and security convoys who made a mockery of traffic rules and signals.
Sometime soon, the traffic lighting system played truant and Imphal came back to its old ways: long winding queues of vehicles all honking together, mostly at the same time and security escort personnel playing traffic personnel on the roads while happily abusing people. And just as mysteriously as the traffic lighting system went off earlier, it has now come back again but things have not changed much. There is no clarity of what time frame the signals are meant to clear or stop vehicles. The traffic signal at the Babupara intersection of the main road has a mere 23 second time frame while other traffic signals at other traffic points have varying time periods. And while traffic lights are supposed to be on for 24X7 hours, it is not uncommon to come across traffic lights only showing the ‘orange’ signal, perhaps to give the false impression that they are in working mode but vehicles and pedestrians being herded by traffic and police personnel, even during day time showing only too well that they are not functioning as they should be. If Imphal is to be passed off as an urban center, traffic needs to be taken care of as per a common rule and system. There can be no concessions made for VIPs and security personnel on the roads.