Only a few months ago, there was much excitement in Imphal over the manner the government seemed bent on organising the parking system in the city’s busy Paona and Thangal Bazar areas. To ensure that the streets that cut through these shopping streets were free of congestion, parking had been prohibited along them, and an alternate space for parking had been created by pulling down market shed along the parallel road running on the other bank of the Naga Nullah at Nagamapal, causing much heartbreaks amongst women vegetable vendors who used the space to earn their meagre daily wages. But after much consideration, the public accepted the government’s move agreeing the hardship caused to many would ultimately be for the better common good, of course after the vendors were assured of suitable alternate spaces. Now, in just a matter of few months, the situation has changed and we may be compelled to change our opinion on the matter.
The two busy streets, in particular Thangal Bazar, has now returned to its former chaotic state, with cars parked everywhere along it, causing frustrating traffic jams along it. Sometimes the congestion is so overwhelming that even pedestrians are greatly inconvenienced. All the initial police enthusiasm and indeed bravado seem to have also died an unceremonious death. On the part of the police, it does seem it was more of a road show – an opportunity for new and pretty faces to demonstrate how manly they can also get. Now the pretty faces seem to have had enough of the mean streets and are happy to return to their old feminine ways of minding not the traffic in the heat and dust of Imphal’s dusty and potholed streets, but their vanity boxes in the comfort of their homes in front of their dressing tables. Jokes aside, what about the damages done in the name of enforcing traffic norm in the initial months? It is still fresh in public memory how some vehicles suffered minor damages in police actions on vehicles parked in these streets after the notification banning it. The justification given at the time seemed tenable for there was indeed a notified drive to clear the streets of parked vehicles. This justification has now turned into a blatant lie as the government simply has given up without accomplishing the mission, pushing which caused damages to those unfortunate to be in the way. Under the circumstance, those who suffered the damages should take the police department to court for the unnecessary trauma inflicted on them by all the false show of professional zeal.
More seriously, what about the hardships all the poor vegetable vendors on Nagamapal were made to go through for this whimsical and short-lived traffic drive of the government? Why is the government so very casual about such matters? Why is there such a lack of commitment to policy continuity? It is true the elections are round the corner and the government heads would be restrained to act, lest the election office sees these acts as populist, aimed at furthering electoral gains. However, a government is not about politicians alone. As law makers the elected legislators make laws, but the bureaucracy is the backbone of the executive wing of the government. It is their duty to ensure that the laws and policies formulated are continued without a break even in this transition phase of the legislature. Why have they decided to turn a blind eye to the traffic chaos returning to the streets of Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar? Why are they allowing such a fine and much appreciated drive to reduce to an act of injustice to those who took the biggest blows of the policy, precisely by the ad hoc attitude with which they are now are treating it?
The same ad hoc-ism is again visible in the manner another decree of the government, publicly announced by none other than the chief minister Okram Ibobi – that of disallowing any further the practice of VIP vehicles using the Kangla complex as short cut. For a few weeks after the announcement, the practice had come to a halt. Today the VIPs of the civil as well as military establishments are back to their old ways, zipping their convoys through the Kangla. Their vehicles not only violate this sacrosanct space but greatly disturb the peace and quiet of this unique green spot in the middle of the increasingly maddening crowds of Imphal city. They are also thus an eyesore to tourists who come to see this priceless relic of a former kingdom and not VIP vehicles demonstrating there is nothing sacred about public spaces to their masters.