09 Feb 2019 05:02am IST
Jose Maria Miranda
Issues like chaotic traffic, road indiscipline, vehicle explosion, deaths in accidents, crash helmets, etc, are regularly being discussed in newspaper columns. Except on the roads, we never seem in hurry for anything. We have turned insensitive to deaths on the roads, even of young people. Reckless driving, over-speeding and hazardous overtaking, which are the main causes of accidents go unabated with Police solely tackling the helmetless, eventually finding other minor violations like pollution. On the other hand, we, Goans, seem fond of indiscipline and have the uncanny habit of opposing some good laws because of the inconvenience they cause us, without looking at their benefits. The high incidence of road deaths ought to have brought the helmet rule, long ago. But impotent Governments, who otherwise give a damn to people’s clamours of destruction of environment, cutting of hills, filling of wetlands or low lying areas, etc. succumbed to pressures and initially delayed bringing the law and thereafter skipped implementation for very long, just out of fear of turning unpopular.
Undoubtedly, crash helmets and seat belts do save lives. The earlier we realise it for our own sake, and not because of Police controls, the better. However, it is ridiculous that half a dozen traffic policemen and some Home Guards stand regularly all at one place, just to check this and other minor violations, with the sole aim of fetching some additional revenue – incidentally, the only thing this Government is interested in to fill highly impoverished coffers. The DGP intimated of this waste of manpower, refused to resort to any action. The Sentinel Scheme was necessitated by the inefficiency and incompetence of the Police. It was earlier suggested to DGP, as also to ex-IGP Garg, to instruct two traffic personnel to move on bikes, thus serving two purposes of fining violators, who would be many, and ensuring smooth traffic flow. Unfortunately, though the suggestion was appreciated by both, none implemented it. This suggestion often surfaced at Traffic meetings but for some strange reason, even the DGP is reluctant to enforce it.
On Traffic Sentinels, I will restrict my comments to its introduction after approval of just the CM. An Officer of the rank of DGP ought to have known that with financial liability involved of paying the Sentinels, it did require Cabinet sanction, which eventually did it with retrospective effect. People are receiving challans for non-use of helmets within city limits, occurred over nine months back and reported by Sentinels, when Police themselves were not fining such violators, until very recently. Legally right, Police action was unfair and unreasonable, for which DGP alone must be blamed. Partly, the people’s animosity against TS emanates from this. However, assaults on them do not behove of otherwise docile and well behaved people of Goa and must be strongly condemned. They have been left at the mercy of the people. In a jobless society like ours, it is no wonder that many people enrolled as TS and most took it as self-employment rather than an attempt at inculcating civic sense in people.
Incidentally, the DGP came to Goa, some years ago, with much fanfare and publicity, as having done wonders in streamlining the traffic in Delhi. We had, therefore, pinned high hopes on him and had personally met him on some traffic issues. Despite promises, nothing came through. He keeps beating the drum about his scheme of Sentinels which, with enforcement of helmet rule, brought about the reduction of deaths in road accidents. In that case, where is the role of Police in this direction?
It is not my aim here to be critical of DGP, his personnel or his scheme. The Police are unfortunately concentrating, not so much on saving lives but in collecting revenue, reducing statistics of riders’ deaths and producing figures…for public consumption and publicity. There is no sincerity on the part of Govt or the Police in reducing accidents – which besides the pain and formalities also involve the biggest curse of all: dealing with fleecing, unco-operative and heartless insurance companies for I would be keener in ensuring that innocent people are not killed by road maniacs than in saving lives of those who are on suicidal missions by not using helmets or seat belts. Where is the road discipline, the strict enforcement of speed limits and curbing of reckless driving which put other people’s lives at risk, the absence of indicators while turning or changing lanes, the lane discipline during traffic congestion, the prohibition of haphazard and parking in turns obstructing the view of other motorists? Are the Police even aware that these serious problems need strict enforcement?
Sudden stoppage of buses, at any spot for alighting or collecting passengers, disturbs the traffic flow. All these and many others are part of traffic discipline which is totally and conveniently ignored by Police & TS. Potholes, which could be easily filled in, on well hot-mixed roads, unpainted speed-breakers, which can’t be noticed even during daytime, have been the cause of many accidents and deaths. Such criminal negligence of the Govt. is simply unacceptable. If the DGP is sincere in doing his job comme il faut, I once again request him to come to Margao a promise he kept unfulfilled for years – and see for himself the traffic chaos and Police inefficiency.
The people too need to realise that saving lives is partly in our hands, if we follow traffic rules, and we cannot entirely blame the Police for the tragedies on our roads. Hence, let us do our part, inculcate better culture on our roads, and put spokes in Police attempts at achieving targets.
(The author is a retired banker)