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THE INDIAN TRAFFIC CHAOS
While travelling on Ajmer Road to Jaipur, on 15 May 2023, I got stuck into traffic Jam caused by JAN SANGARSH YATRA by local politicians. Thousands of people on scooter, bikes, cars, buses, trucks and tractors blocked a stretch of 15 km of this national highway throwing the entire traffic out of gear. It took me 04 hours to cover a distance of 20 kms which normally takes 30 minutes. There were many like me who missed a doctor’s appointment or a flight or a train or an urgent meeting. Ambulances with patients on life support were also stuck for hours. All these helpless commuters suffered immense misery in the heat and consequent stress. Who Cares!!
In the recent past, highways and rail tracks have been blocked for not only hours or days but months by political agitations. The Kissan Andolan laid seize to national capital, blocking all roads to Delhi, for almost a year creating unprecedented misery to road users. Similar actions by CAA protesters, Jaat or Gujjar reservation andolans caused untold hardships to daily commuters and financial loss of thousands of crores to the national economy. Who Cares!!
HORRENDOUS DRIVING EXPERIENCE
For an average Indian citizen driving is equivalent to waging a daily war. It is not easy to drive among Lorries, Buses, tractors, Autos, Bikes, e-rickshaws, Bicycles, handcarts, Animals and Humans. It’s very aptly said that if you drive on Indian roads and come back home without raising your anger quotient, voice or blood pressure, you have truly attained NIRVANA.
SLOW/FAST: There is total lack of conceptual clarity and policy coordination in India, with regards to traffic management. While the National Highways Authority is busy making 6-8 lane super highways, the police take great pleasure to barricade it and reduce it to single lane at so many places. The decision makers in the country have not been able to decide whether they want us to go FAST or SLOW.
Roadspace Vs Registration: India’s road networks have grown by about 30% over the past decade, whereas vehicle registrations have risen by almost three times, at the annual rate of 10%. An average of 57,300 new vehicles are added every day. There is no coordination between road space management and vehicle registration agencies.
Bus Lanes: The learned policy makers created bus lanes in major cities, aping the European concept and wasting crores of taxpayer’s money. Sheer waste of precious road space and Govt money. But Who Cares!!
SPEED BREAKERS – SYMBOL OF POWER
If you leave the expressway and move into state highways/village roads, you will find speedbreakers almost at every KM. Highways have been mercifully spared by the Court orders. Speed-breakers are taken as a symbol of power, where in all passing vehicles slow down to pay obeisance in front of high and mighty. It has been proved that speed-breakers cause more accidents rather then saving them. But Who Cares!!
DRIVING LICENSE-A FARCE
When you see the way people drive on the road, you often wonder who gave them the license to drive? Research shows that only 41% of drivers have taken the driving test — A dangerous trend, really. Kids of about 10 years or so are given vehicles to drive solo on highways. Most drivers are armed with a license, without knowing the ABC of driving.
MECHANICAL FITNESS OF VEHICLES
Mechanical fitness or roadworthiness of vehicles is no consideration in India. We often find very old vehicles about to collapse, moving on the road. Mechanical failures are a major cause of accidents, in addition to human error but this aspect is totally neglected. Again, Who Cares!!
INEFFECTIVE TRAFFIC POLICE
Any rule or law is as powerful as its enforcement. The traffic police across the country is mostly ineffective with a few exceptions. Police is not to control traffic but to catch the defaulters. Two wheeler riders and tractor drivers are their brethren and exempted from obeying all rules. The police considers speed as the biggest crime. The fault is always of the person having larger and faster moving vehicle. Vehicles moving in opposite directions are by ignorant people committing no offence. If that be our enforcement motto, how can traffic management improve in the country? Who Cares!!
The traffic management is pathetic with understaffed and inefficient police force. The priorities are misplaced and road blockades for political reasons have no answers. The number of accidents on the roads is mindboggling. Sooner or later, decision makers will have to address the traffic menace. This may appear as a tall order but it’s doable provided it catches the attention of our decision makers, at apex levels. I sincerely hope that our traffic system changes for the good and driving experience becomes a pleasure. HOPE SOMEONE CARES!!!!
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL
MAJ GEN CP SINGH (RETD) The writer is a scholar soldier accredited with MA, MSc, LLB, MBA, M Phil (Def Mgt) and M Phil (International Strategic Affairs)