Curse of Indian roads
The escalation of fines on traffic violation is complementary to India’s reputation as a country plagued by fatal road accidents and untimely deaths
Three deaths occur every day, on an average, concerning two-wheelers on Delhi/NCR roads – this is the horrific fact. And, in the rest of the country too, fatal road deaths account for a mindboggling number. The Union government has taken a much-required step and increased cash penalty on offenders, primarily to stem deaths on the seemingly innocuous roads of our country. The transport minister reminded citizens that India tops the list of countries with fatal road accidents and to correct the long-pending anomaly, fines, which actually act as a deterrent, need to be hiked.
Yet, politics has again assumed centre-stage. It is disheartening to see a number of political leaders grabbing the limelight by voraciously expressing solidarity with law-breakers who are keen to emphasise that the steep fine be eased – so that they can flout the law day-in and day-out without any impunity and without digging any measurable hole in their pocket.
While Chandrayaan-2 evokes pride, this routine political hullaballoo on rolling back fines against law-breakers dampens the idea of India becoming a truly modern society. Where are we headed? In this era of technology, while we are striving to become the viswaguru again, this medieval mindset takes us many steps back. It is especially disheartening to see political leaders from the opposition and some even from the present treasury benches come up with this retrograde façade. Is it all about appeasement and caring a bare minimum for the law of the land – but one mustn't forget that politics is after all empty when in violation of people and their well-being.
Life is precious and human life, the most precious. Surely, roads and accidents are not the appropriate place to lose one's life to untimely death. Respect for the law is of utmost importance and should be upheld by one and all. Political leaders, especially, should be responsible for paving any iota of negativity on the psyche of the people on the subject. Rather than reducing the challan rates, cars and two-wheeler riders should be encouraged to follow the rule and remain within the boundary of the yellow line. In fact, the government, especially the Union transport minister, should be lauded for this long-overdue step of increasing the fine amount for violating traffic rules, which has been initiated after much ado.
One minuscule percentage of law enforcement agencies may be taking advantage and indulging in malpractice, which is condemnable, but that is not reason enough to seek a rollback on the fine amount. Such instances should be reported to the concerned higher authorities for appropriate punitive action against the black sheep of the law enforcement agencies.
There are several interlinked issues on traffic and a holistic approach is most definitely required. The ultimate intention is to pave the way for smooth, safe, free-flowing traffic in our cities without any accidents, especially avoidable fatal accidents. For safe traffic, one most important factor is good and respectful driver behaviour – besides good roads, good vehicles and good enforcement. This good behaviour is scanty on our roads and demands organised inculcation. An old aphorism says, 'catch them young if you want them to deliver'. Thailand's capital Bangkok was notorious for traffic problems even a decade ago. The Thai government then decided to teach traffic rules and regulations to children, beginning from kindergarten itself. Transportation and traffic rules were introduced in the curriculum for all. And then, the results also proved to be satisfactory. Accidents were down, drivers' behaviour on the road improved, road rages reduced and as an overall impact, the city of Bangkok received the blessing of smooth traffic.
Another aspect, important for overall traffic improvement is parking in Central Business Districts (CBDs). Across civilised countries, parking rates in CBDs are very stiff and also vary during the day. Office time rates are obviously higher than the normal time. A similar approach should be taken in our country on this issue. For example, in Delhi, Nehru Place, Connaught Place, Ajmal Khan Market, South Extension Market, Lajpat Nagar, etc., are places with much higher footfall. So, the parking rates in these areas, especially during the office working hours, should be much higher, which actually would act as a deterrent as people will avoid bringing their private vehicles and opt for public transport instead. One can't be selfish in ignoring the larger picture and importance of the situation in its totality. Good sense should prevail, and the sooner the better!
(The author is a senior IAF officer, former OSD to LG, Delhi and has been closely associated with UTTIPEC in NCT of Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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