By Rajkumar Bobichand
Traffic congestion in Imphal city has become a chronic problem. Sometime back, in this column, it was written about the unnecessary traffic congestion created by mismanagement of Imphal city. However, it is compelled to write time and again about the traffic congestion in Imphal city. This time, it is focused on the mindset and behaviour of the vehicle drivers.
It is common understanding 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, 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 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.
Now, low floor city buses are plying along three important routes in Imphal city namely, Canchipur-Mantripukhri; Nambol-Chairenthong; Imphal West DC –Imphal East DC (Top Khongnangkhong) and commuting passengers from and to various important places along these routes. This helps in decreasing the noise pollution in Imphal city by indirectly decreasing the frequency of diesel auto rickshaws. But, the frequency of plying of low floor city buses is less and most passengers have to wait longer time, which in turn compels them to catch Diesel Auto Rickshaws for speedy reach of their destinations.
However, the problem of traffic congestion remains unsolved. One of the major factors among others of creating traffic congestion in Imphal city is driving behaviours of the vehicles, attitudes of the drivers and/owners of the vehicles. Most of the drivers/owners of the vehicles in Imphal city want to drive as they wish at the speed they enjoy. Even if traffic control police sign to wait, most of the drivers drive in their vehicles without respecting the traffic control police at all the junctions in Imphal city. 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, Kangla Mamang, Keishampat Junction, Wahengbam Leikai, Nagamapal, Khoyathong, Sanjenthong, Konung Mamang and New Checkon etc.
Most of the drivers and owner-drivers always fail to wait the vehicles in front of them move first. They will blow horns non-stop as if the vehicles that are waiting for their turn to move in front of them stop unnecessarily. Their attitude is that they have to move first as if their birth right. People must experience it that most of those who drive costly big cars including Bolero and similar vehicles behaves in such way. Maximum diesel auto rickshaw drivers are also not different from such behaviour. The difference is that they think of the money from the passengers. If the drivers with this mindset cannot push away the vehicles in front of them who are waiting traffic sign for their turn to move, they will take wrong side and drive in violating traffic rules. Traffic Control Police also cannot enforce traffic rules because sometimes most of the vehicles belong to many influential persons in many ways.
Another creator of traffic congestion is the vehicles of “VIP” of all kinds and security forces. Military vehicles hardly obey traffic police. People must find in Imphal city that military personnel regulate the traffic if some of their officers have to pass the road. They can do what they like. Traffic Control police has to follow them. Even if they are not on emergency case, police and security vehicles drive with the mindset that they have to move always first and faster than the common people; and the common people have to leave the space for them somehow even though there is no space to take side. Sometimes, situation arises where common people seems to drive into Imphal River from Sanjenthong to let the security and VIP vehicles to pass. Even though you are driving down towards west from Sanjenthong, you have to apply brake and let the VIPs and their people move first and cross the road.
Another major creator of traffic congestion and problem is the teenage riders of costly motorbikes. They ride the vehicles in crowded roads with maximum speed as if there is no speed limit to follow. No personnel from traffic police or civil police or motor vehicle dept will regulate them. They will speed up and overtake from wrong sides. Almost all the riders of such costly motorbikes are school goers and they are generally below the age of 18 years. How are they issued driving licence? Most of them demand their parents to buy them motorbike to ride when they go for study because they know the buying capacity of their parents. Some of the parents sell out their properties to buy motorbikes for their children. Even though some schools ban students coming to school riding motorbikes, parents do not cooperate with school authority. Government authorities concerned also do not bother to check the underage riders.
Unfortunately, something is seriously wrong with the system. If the issue of driving licence is considered seriously, it would be easier to address the problem of traffic congestion and driving behaviour. The attitude and behaviours of the persons need to be seriously considered as part of the driving skills. Many may think that such driving behaviour is not worthy for discussion. But these are the reflections of changing negative social values of our society. If this driving behaviour is not checked in time, it will further add up not only to the traffic congestion and its related problems in Imphal city but also negative impact on the society at large.