Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Traffic Offence - The Hyderabad Traffic Police

One of the most feared departments on the roads is the traffic police. Don't get me wrong - I am fully with the traffic police when they catch the guilty, which at times includes me. And if uniformly applied, they would have earned respect of all and sundry. But what rankles with most is the way they sometimes appear to unjustly overlook certain offenders, the way some take bribes and the sheer amount of violations that go on everyday, most times under the very noses of some traffic policemen. As with all policing and administration the key is fair and just treatment to all and somewhere the traffic department is still trying to cope with it. The use of technology these days to capture evidence through cameras is a laudable initiative and a step froward in the right direction. It reduces the subjectivity and the eventual haggling and paying of bribes.

These days we receive a letter from the Hyderabad City Traffic Police which announces a fee and a penalty for a traffic offence committed by you someplace which has been recorded by a camera. The picture of the offence is posted in the letter and you are asked to pay up the penalty - normally Rs. 100 - plus a whopping Rs. 35 for user charges. Now what these user charges are I know not but it's the maximum I have known for a 100 buck offence. And by the time I find out - well, not worth the time really. Better pay up.

I heard many people complain of these letters. I received one yesterday. It says zebra line, stop line crossing which probably means that I did not stop before the stop line. The photograph shows my number plate - but it shows nothing about the offence committed. Fair enough. I might have slid a few inches this way or that - I am normally conscious of where I stop - but well the law is the law. I have no qualms about paying up but I am concerned as to what I am paying up for. There is really no evidence in the photograph of the car going past the stop line or zebra crossing. This could be addressed by the traffic police otherwise just any other picture of my number plate will not be sufficient.

This time I read the letter and the plea by the beleaguered traffic force to understand that these measures are for our own safety. I fully appreciate the fact that there is only one traffic policeman for every 2000 vehicles on the road which is a lot, that 45% of the traffic police suffer from pollution related lung, eye or ear infections, that over 15000 people in the state are dying in road accidents due to rash driving etc, that every day 600 vehicles are being added to the 25 lakh vehicles already on the road in our state. It is a good measure through these few lines to appeal and to reach out to the public and I appreciate the effort. In view of the conditions traffic police work in I really feel for them - they are after all young boys trying their best to man traffic in all kinds of weather. From unruly drivers, to risk taking pedestrians, to straight law breakers - they have to deal with everything including accidents, people beating them up, fighting with them etc. There are times when I feel like stopping and giving them a cool glass of something to drink.

On the other hand, the traffic police also must step up efforts to coordinate better with the municipal and the Metro authorities. the roads in Hyderabad are death traps. Pot holes, open drains, broken dividers, badly designed dividers, unilluminated blockades, trucks with dangerous material, autos overloaded, rogue bus drivers and truck drivers, drunken drivers, teenagers, uncared for pedestrians - its a miracle that we still have only so many accidents. Some of the measures that the concerned departments need to take include optimal utilisation of road space, clearing up of all the badly designed obstructions in traffic, focussing on smoother flow of traffic especially by taking up quick repairs of roads. As long as traffic moves in an orderly fashion, the road design and other stationary dangers on the road are taken care of and the traffic police enforce their laws fairly and justly, the traffic will fall in line. Giving incentives to citizens to send in photographs with a date and time, of both traffic offenders and corrupt policemen, can also help a lot in creating a parallel force of law keepers among citizens and also provide some kind of a responsibility with an incentive for young citizens to earn a meal. In India, where policing becomes a nightmare because of sheer volumes, it might just be a good idea o empower people to send in their complaints and incentivise the same. Creates a parallel employment, reports crime and reduces the burden on the concerned departments. The Municipal Corporation, one of the most corrupt departments by all measures, seems to have made an announcement to that effect in today's news and its a welcome measure if they follow it up well.

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