Disciplining Imphal Traffic

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If the law and order problem resulting out of insurgency is not something which can be resolved easily or quickly, there are so many others which given adequate government attention and commitment can be smoothened out without much problem. Among these is the chaotic Imphal traffic. The present government needs to be praised at least for pushing through the onerous task of widening many of the major arterial streets and avenues of the city, the cost of uprooting and demolishing numerous established shops and homes along these roads, although with monitory compensation, but it must be added that these wider roads have still not solved the problem of road congestions and chaos. The reason for this is, though the road infrastructure is better, road discipline of users has not undergone any change. Norms of lane driving or crossing are still largely unknown; auto-rickshaw and other cab services halt anywhere they spot a potential passenger or wherever a passenger wants to get off; hardly anybody understands traffic etiquette with the result that anybody and everybody jump traffic queues to be one ahead of the vehicle in front causing unnecessary traffic bottlenecks particularly at crossroads. This queue jumping is moreover done with a look of conquest and proof of superior driving skill, a nouveau-riche malady prone to afflict first generation vehicle owners; importantly also most traffic police personnel are also not trained to handle big volume traffic flows. The department is also visibly understaffed. This list of traffic woes is far from exhaustive.

If these listed problems are agreed to be correct diagnoses of the problem at hand, the remedies should also not be too difficult to find. In any case, none of these problems are too profound to not have easy and tangible answers. Even in the midst of financial crises and resultant recruitment bans in the state, thanks to its status as insurgency prone state, the department left untouched by these bans is the police department. When the demand of a commodity is far higher than the capacity to supply the same, even elementary school economics will predict a rise in the price of the commodity. And since these are government jobs, theoretically to be had only by the most meritorious in the aptitudes of the profession, these jobs cannot have a monitory market value, but thanks to the ingenuity of the authorities of these recruitment processes, they have found other means to extract the upward price pressure caused by this demand heavy equation. These jobs are today sold almost exclusive to the highest bidders in the back channels of official corruption, and even a constable’s job command several lakh rupees, making many rich, though not famous. At best they become infamous for their lack of scruples and the periodic scandals they foist. Whatever the scandals may be, to make the best of the worst situation, a fair percentage of these periodic recruits ought to have been traffic police personnel. If not this, then right now there are a number of VDF personnel given the task of standing on roadsides biding time, supposedly keeping security vigil of our roads. They also could be more meaningfully engaged in the disciplining of the Imphal traffic. The government can also begin in earnest to build bus and taxi stops all along the roads, and make these the only spots auto rickshaws and taxis can halt to either pick up or drop their passengers. They should be prohibited to halt anywhere else. If traffic police strength is increased, norms of lane driving and crossing can also be enforced with penalty for those who break them. Some of them could even be on motorcycles to chase down offenders if needed. The government must also seriously think of consulting experts city planners to devise means to find parking areas in the city. Since land is now extremely scarce, maybe these can be underground facilities or else multi-storied cars and two wheelers docking buildings.

There also needs for wide and intense publicity on traffic norms. As of today, many four wheel vehicle users are seemingly not even aware of the significance of blinking all four signal lights of their cars, and presume it means they are signaling they want to go straight at a crossroads. Even a cursory look at their own vehicle manuals will inform them this is distress signal, and the owner is advised to switch them on when he or she is faced with an emergency, such as rushing a patient to the hospital or else has to for emergency reasons temporarily park wrongly etc. Once upon a time, driving licenses were also awarded only to those who not only know driving, but also traffic laws and norms. Perhaps this discipline too should be enforced again in view of the fact that the traffic volume in the city can only increase and never decrease in the years ahead.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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