Plus & Minus

“A weekly column: Plus&Minus will be published in Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live. This will speak to the ordinary reader on contemporary economic issues in a simple format”.

    Of Traffic Police and Chaos on City Roads
    Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live, August 26, 2009

By Pradeep S Mehta

Try driving in Jaipur without brakes and horn. You will not because you have to use them to deal with the indisciplined traffic in the city or risk damaging your vehicle or hurting someone.

While driving towards the Country Inn and Suites Hotel on Wednesday the 21st of January, 2009 morning, I was stopped on MI Road by Prahlad Singh, a traffic constable, because Rahul Gandhi’s motorcade was hurtling towards the Collectorate. It was an interesting conversation that I had with the constable, as to why they are not as active in regulating the unruly traffic in Jaipur. His nonchalant response was that their duties are mainly to assist the smooth flow of VVIPs and the Jaipur traffic will remain chaotic. So, God help us!

This reminded me of two things: the citizens’ outrage in Mumbai, following the carnage on 26th November, when people protested wildly against the security arrangements being only for the VVIPs and not for the ordinary citizens, who are paying taxes.

The second is that the traffic scenario in Jaipur is only getting from bad to worse. If one observes the body language of the few traffic constables on our roads, it only shows their callous disinterest in performing their duty. They are not trained, or even motivated, to perform…a serious matter which needs the attention of the police administration in the city.

When Rahul Gandhi addressed the conference on ‘Police Performance and Public Perception’ at the Rajasthan Police Academy on January 21, one wonders whether this issue was raised at all. A study done by the noted Massachusetts Institute of Technology was presented at the event. It showed that a little over a third, about 39 percent, of the people fear the police. The survey covered 22,773 people and 3,312 police personnel in Rajasthan.

In terms of following traffic rules, we have seen how this fear works. It is evident in how most of the two-wheeler riders wear helmets religiously, once the rule was made mandatory, and enforced. It is another story that many carry more than one pillion rider and there is no prosecution at all….it has become an acceptable ‘crime’.

In fact, it is the two-wheelers in Jaipur which are one of the worst offenders. Many of them drive in a suicidal fashion, with little concern for their passengers or other road users. I call these riders a hybrid between a mosquito and a pig. They flit around you like mosquitoes and enter into gaps like pigs, if they can get their noses in. Using a mobile phone while driving is another bane. Two-wheeler riders are often seen with their heads tilted cradling a mobile and talking. Four-wheeler drivers too chat on their phones in spite of it being illegal. There is no fear because there is no prosecution. Consequently, all cars have scars on their body due to the two wheelers and four-wheelers dashing into them from all sides.

We, the people of India, observe the annual Road Safety Week from first Monday of January for seven days. The shining feature of the Week in Jaipur in 2009 was to book drivers with alcohol on their breath, thus causing some fear among those who often drink and drive. One good action that the Chief Minister has taken is to curb the business hours of liquor shops, and cutting down their numbers as well. All these measures will have a salutary effect on not only driving but other aspects of our social life.

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