The traffic department of Howrah Police is preparing a comprehensive plan to combat traffic congestion due to a sudden rise in number of battery operated rickshaws.
A senior police officer of the traffic department said registration numbers have been given to around 5,000 such vehicles. The initiative to provide registration number has been started to get a count on the number of battery operated rickshaws, commonly known as toto, operating in Howrah city at present. The work to provide registration number to all such vehicles is on and police stations have been involved to accomplish the task in their respective areas under supervision of a senior police officer.
A preliminary discussion has also taken place to make totos operate within their respective areas to be specified by the police. Once the plan is finalised, the vehicles will not be allowed to ferry passengers anywhere outside their respective areas. At the same time, a certain number of totos will be allowed to ferry for a particular time period. Citing an example, a police officer said let consider that around 150 totos will operate for 12 hours since morning in a particular area and another set of the same number of the vehicles will operate in the same region for the next 12 hours.
It seems the plan will be helpful for all. Traffic congestion will be less if all the totos do not operate at a time and commuters will also not complaint of unavailability of such vehicle. Toto operators are expected to be happy as they can ply their vehicles without facing any trouble. Totos had started operating in 2013 in most of the urban and semi-urban areas in the state. People had started opting to travel in totos instead of in auto-rickshaws though it takes comparatively more time. The reason being a travelling in a toto is cheaper considered that to be in an auto-rickshaw and at the same time it is more comfortable as well. As a result, hundreds of jobless youths had managed to buy totos and started ferrying passengers at a bare minimum fare. Initially, each toto owner had managed to earn around Rs 1,200 everyday when the number of such battery operated rickshaws were lesser in number.
Within a few months, number of totos operating in urban areas of Howrah district had grown manifold. Neither the police nor the local civic body had managed to keep a track that at present how many such vehicles are operating in the Howrah city.
At the same time, earning of each toto owner dropped drastically as the number of passengers remained fixed but more totos stated operating in a particular area. A police officer said: “It doesn’t mean that they had stopped plying the vehicles. Instead it made the situation more difficult as competition among toto drivers had gone up and they started parking vehicles anywhere they wished to get passenger. Regular intervention by senior police officers had solved the problem. But a permanent solution is needed to get rid of the menace that causing massive traffic congestion.”
There was trouble whenever policemen from local police stations restricted them plying the vehicles on important thoroughfares. Police had tried to restrict them from plying the battery operated vehicles on busy roads as its slow speed was a major reason behind traffic congestion. Moreover, the number of such vehicles operating is so high that the situation goes out of control and policemen find themselves in a helpless situation to clear traffic jam.
Two totos standing side by side to get passenger is a common site on narrow GT Road in Howrah.
“Buses heading towards Howrah station from Bally do not get enough passage to pass if two totos suddenly stop side by side to get passenger from the same spot and it causes massive traffic congestion,” said a police officer from Malipanchghara police station, adding that it is not possible to restrict them from plying their vehicles as it is their means of livelihood.