Lawlessness was taken to a new level in Vasco on Wednesday when a traffic sentinel was attacked as he was clicking pictures of persons violating traffic rules. He was attacked by a mob, the glass of the car broken, his car turned on its side. He was taken away under police protection and two persons have been arrested. Two weeks earlier there was another incident of a traffic sentinel being abused in Fatorda, and here too the police had to intervene. A month ago, in Shiroda the attacks on sentinels turned almost into a riot, when a group vandalised a shop, assaulted the owner, even forced him to vacate the premises suspecting that a CCTV camera outside the shop was recording traffic violations. There is a First Information Report filed in this incident against 200 persons, but no arrest has been made. This has led to allegations from the sentinels that the police are protecting the accused rather than the sentinels, who are working with the police to curb traffic violations.
The safety of the traffic sentinels has to be ensured by the police. These are persons not in uniform but who are aiding the traffic authorities in their job. There have been an increasing number of incidents of attacks on the sentinels, and there are about 3200 registered traffic sentinels in the State. Their safety is of absolute importance. The sentinels are rewarded with points for every violation they report, and on accumulating a certain number of points they are given cash rewards. A few weeks ago, two sentinels walked away with a four-wheeler and a two-wheeler for their efforts. But is there a plan for compensation to sentinels who are attacked? Or any kind of protection for them?
That being so, the traffic sentinels need also need to cooperate with the police and the people and not overdo the task of reporting violations. There are allegations that some sentinels have converted the scheme into a source of income. That should not happen. This should be a voluntary effort by the people to maintain discipline on the road. As pointed out by a traffic sentinel, he complains only if the vehicle is inconveniencing the people at large. He doesn’t stand on the roadside awaiting motorists breaking the rules to capture them on camera and upload the violation to the police. The sentinels must remember that they are not doing a police job, but are aiding the police in the latter’s task. It is sentinels who await traffic violators who have been at the receiving end of the people.
The bad press to the scheme has led to a demand to scrap it. There, however, is a simple method to curtail the traffic sentinel scheme. Why not follow the traffic rules? The sentinels are recording traffic violations and uploading these through an app to the traffic police who then send a letter to the owner of the vehicle to pay a fine and compound the offence. If motorists follow the rules, the traffic sentinel scheme will fall through simply because it won’t be required. If there are queues outside the offices where the fines are being collected, it is only because there are a large number of people breaking the rules. If people start following the rules, the sentinels will have no violations to report.
The success of the scheme has also led to a demand that there be a similar programme that will allow people to report potholes on roads, garbage mounds along the wayside, corruption in government offices and negligent government staff. Will the government rise to the occasion and give the people the opportunity to complain against its failures or the misdeeds of its officials? If the common man can be reported for violating rules, then corruption in government offices should also be similarly reported.