Archive for January, 2013


I wrote this in June 2011 for Car India portal*. Some of the information has been updated.

Travel enthusiasts, helped by new age technology join forces at various forums to help each other while on the road

J.K. Saraf is 63 years old. At a time when people look forward to walks in the garden and a retired life, this sexagenarian, who lives in Pune, decided to do the unheard.

He sent his Ford Endeavour for servicing, packed enough food to last him a fortnight, then convinced his wife, daughter and three grandchildren that they were about to embark on the adventure of their lives. Then getting behind of his Ford Endy’, Saraf and his family set off for Leh! All Saraf had with him was confidence, a mobile phone and directions by a travel enthusiast to guide him through the treacherous terrain.

New age technology, has made travelling to the most inaccessible corners of the country so much easier. Mobile phones with 3G and and laptops with data connectivity have made a huge difference. Lost? Just call a friend for directions on the mobile or log on to your iPhone or android phone and check out your latitudes yourself. When did our parents have such an advantage?

But apart from mobile phones and laptops, there is a third dimension, which has made driving around the country a pleasure, and that is a travel forum. Get on to one and a first-time traveller or even the most experienced one will get the latest updates on everything he or she needs while driving from point A to B – road condition, directions, number of toll booths, toll amounts, traffic rules in each State etc etc. There are numerous travel forums that have a very strong online presence, where a huge number of automobile and two-wheeler enthusiasts congregate to get the latest information on travel routes, road conditions etc of places they intend to visit.

Rushabh Parekh who runs popular automotive forum team-bhp.com (www.team-bhp.com), which has an on-the-road section, believes it’s about sharing your experiences, so that others can benefit. Over a hundred travelogues are uploaded on his site every month and they along with travel logs are available on request to any member of the forum. Team-bhp boasts 12.5 lakh unique visitors on their forum and the increasing number is proof of the burgeoning community of travellers in the country

“The idea is to give instant and invaluable feedback to travellers in real-time, which could benefit them, whichever part of the country they are in,“ Rushabh told CAR India (www.carindia.in).

This writer remembers going on a travel forum such as this when he was planning his trip from Pune to Kanyakumari and back via Chennai and Bengaluru a few years back. He got a complete breakdown of the route, road condition, petrol pumps, restaurants and motels along the way by helpful travellers. And every bit of the information was spot-on, to the last kilometre.

For Yogesh Sarkar of BCMTouring (www.bcmtouring.com) helping travellers is a 24×7 experience. “Whether you are on a bike or a car, the basic requirements remain the same – road conditions, availability of petrol pumps, weather updates and accommodation,” he says. The basic idea is to keep each other updated about these factors while travelling around the country.

“When I travelled extensively around the country, I took the help of travel enthusiasts for my requirements, so the idea behind a travel forum was my way of paying back to the community of travel enthusiasts for all they had done for me,” he told CAR India.(www.carindia.in).

He says he realises how desperately people need information today. “Last year there were 1.5 lakh views for the condition of the road between Manali and Leh, and this year so far we have received over 70,000 views for the same route.”

He says the minute a driver or rider does a difficult section, he or she posts an update about the condition of the road, and since weather conditions in this section can change travel plans overnight, there are constant updates about this stretch.

Nithin KD, is one such frequent traveller who not only keeps himself updated on the latest developments of the road he is about to travel on but also helps others who drive around the country. Though his travelling has been curtailed due to his work, he still helps anyone who asks for information on road routes.

“I once guided a friend, who was riding a two-wheeler all the way from Shimla to Manali via my phone, giving him directions till he reached his destination. The friend would stop at regular intervals and check on the route he was taking, by talking to me,” says Nithin. Like him, there are others for whom travelling is a passion and helping other travellers a bounden duty. There are no rewards, just the satisfaction of helping another fellow traveller that drives them.

Another name that crops up frequently on travel forums is HV Kumar. His name is on almost every second travel-related discussion on the forum. Get on Facebook and type HV Kumar and you’ll be taken to his personal page, and more interestingly, to a page which goes by the title: HV Kumar – Fan, Forum & Message Board. On this page, anyone who needs information of any route around the country, affordable hotels, road taxes, condition of the roads – whether it’s the Golden Quadrilateral, National or State highways, or even the roads in a city or town- he or she will find it. His travel logs are also at your disposal if ever you need them.

A page that is updated 24×7 requires constant attention, and Kumar, who is a former merchant banker, and runs his own consulting company, still finds time to do that. The Facebook forum was started in November 2009 and at last count, the page has 4025 members and growing.

The last word on the subject must go to Saraf. He says he came to know about Kumar through a common friend of his daughter and Team-BHP. He spoke to us from his home in Pune about his trip on which he was behind the wheel throughout.

“I sent an email to HV about our proposed travel to Leh from May 25, this year. To my surprise we got a reply within 2/3 hours, giving a total route breakdown and helpful links of his previous tour experiences and what we should take along on our drive. During the travel throughout, we were constantly in touch with him and he gave us lot of information and suggestions which were really useful.”

In the end, for people like Yogesh, Kumar and the others like them, it’s not about the money or recognition.

* Reprinted with permission from Next Gen Publishing.

 

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A student replies…

Posted: January 13, 2013 in journalism, students
Tags: ,

Reproducing the entire reply from Nandan Sharalaya, to my earlier blog post https://mohansblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-kids-are-bored-how-do-i-un-bore-them/

Dear Sir,

I just thought I’ll share 4 thoughts with you on your latest blog post because you were on of my favorite teachers in SIMC without any doubt!!!!

So I just thought I’ll put in a few points but please don’t get me wrong at all. I was reading this really negative comment on the blog and because I hate being negative and personally believe there’s a solution to absolutely everything, I thought I’ll share with you 4 points as a personalized message and not leave it as a comment. Most of it I am guessing you are already following or completely get but I really wanted to help in some way. Forgive the typos!

1. In SIMC and Pune, the system is messed up genuinely. Not blaming the college, just the whole structure. I come from a very simple but very well to do middle class family in Bangalore. My dad was the M.D of Coke in West Africa so I lived all my life in Nigeria except 12th grade which I did in Chennai but we were always very into our culture and ethos etc. And I liked that so when I came to SIMC (young, simple guy) I got a huge culture shock. The freedom and the present day lifestyle really hit me hard. But there were things I thought then that I must do and I drew a line then and there. I promised myself I would never touch alcohol, never try cigs/weed etc etc and live a very simple life, do my shit and be happy. I have stuck with that till this day. I still don’t know how alcohol tastes. The point I am trying to make is that in Symbi, everyone just gets lost in everything else apart from what’s essentially required. You will never have a focused, inspired class because half are getting rid of hangovers and the rest have other issues to think about/stress (no mums food, relationship issues, money etc). All of this exists everywhere but the truth is, I think it’s just a lot more in Symbi. As a professor, you can’t do much about this but in such a disadvantaged situation, you can’t be a normal professor. You really have to try super hard to get things going if you really want to.

2. Talking of super professor, I still vividly remember my first class of yours in the first year. I am from a science background and so when I am suddenly thrown in Pune attending random lectures, I am bloody fascinated. And you absolutely added to that experience. You were a live wire then with all the stuff you said and how you connected most of your experiences. The students were genuinely fascinated. People discussed your lectures in the canteen etc. That whole first year, I still remember many of friends rating you a 10 on 10. In the 2nd year however, everyone got a little used to you and suddenly I felt the interest quotient/ stories reduced a little, the surprise factor in you class had reduced, your enthusiasm seemed much lesser so this time around you lost all those guys having a hangover and you had the attention of only the few of us in the first few rows. Being a professor is damn hard and I think one of the most prominent ways in which you could get back to un-boring the students is just by being that live wire wow professor in my first semester!!

3. You have probably been told this so many times by now but unfortunately seem to students associate the word cynicism with you. I have no issues. In fact I like your cynicism. I even used your style many a times when speaking/debating. (You remember how I once took permission in 2nd yr to take one of your classes and we had this super intense discussion on the Islam terror and the whole phobia that the world seems to have? that class was really well received and was a super debate.) So I was saying eventually by the end of 2nd or 3rd year a lot of students in my class began to think you had nothing positive about the world/industry. I even read your previous post where you perfectly justified your point of view. In the sense, though everything you said was the absolute reality, consciously no one wanted to ever connect with it. Like bad news. You want to delay hearing or feeling it as much as possible. And I think its simple human psychology to not respond to that kind of stimulus. If I was to suggest, I think it would be great if you came in every class you took and started off your lecture emphasizing what a brilliant profession this is and how the students are superbly killer guys. Because then suddenly you have people wanting to listen and after that whatever message you want to send across suddenly seems to be taken more easily. This worked with me a lot with most of professors. For e.g I still remember how I wasn’t so much interested in the multimedia module Ramesh Menon Sir was taking and then suddenly he just started talking about how his father and him got into good terms after so many years when he won the Ramnath Goenka award. His father hated the fact that he took journalism but 20 yrs later, he was proud of him. Unknowingly, I just absorbed every other complicated shit he said about multimedia after that story/thought.

4. Last suggestion. I think because this course is really open, the professors who come here really need to ensure that they use every possible intervention mechanism to engage the student in one class/period. To put it more simply, I think the class becomes more lively when you engage a lot more senses. For e.g let say you are talking about something as simple as the profile of a reporter. I would ideally first talk about it for 15 minutes, open questions for 5 minutes, Play a video for another 15 minutes, take questions for 5 more minutes, then circulate a few leaflets/printout to read in class itself for 5 minutes on the same topic, then probably get a reporter or show pictures of your life, a radio clipping/joke/meme/poster, workshop type closed group discussions etc in an incentive based mechanism. Essentially just try and drive the same point through various mediums of expression. In this process you are not giving the student time to zone out or just get used to one thing. I suggest its important to fill too many mediums/processes to drive forward a simple point. And whenever someone did that to me, I grasped better and I concentrated harder.

You could also try asking yourself every class you conduct what incentive could you provide that would get things going?! I did 6 debates in the last year winning all of them and that gave me close to 1 lakh rupees prize money in just 2 months. I am no passionate debater, I only went coz there was money and my father refused to buy me a dog and a keyboard which I eventually bought! That was my incentive! Similarly Sana took this nice lecture in first sem for which you got her home made chocolates! Now suddenly, whoever took a lecture next time/presented in front of the class put some josh not because they wanted home made chocolates. It just left you that something was going to come! And all of this really doesn’t need to have any monetary connection. Like, an opportunity to spend the whole day with you in Sakaal office for whoever did well/ a byline somewhere/ a mention in your blog/ i mean anything under the sun!!!

I really meant to say everything in very good spirits so if I have said anything wrong it has been absolutely unintentional!

Cheers Sir! Was great meeting you at the convocation!

Nandan


I did not think I would feel this way, but I do. I hope it’s just a phase, but after five years of doing the rounds of classrooms in media institutes around Pune, I am bored.

Yes, I am bored, standing in front of students while I talk about reporting and editing and about events unfolding around us, weaving facts about journalism around incidents from my career and life, often egging the students to indulge in a heated debate – just to be met with a wall. Education is difficult!

Sometimes I feel like I am talking to myself. There are those few stray voices who ask questions, but very few. I don’t know how to change things. Maybe I need to reconsider how I am doing this. If that doesn’t work, I’d welcome suggestions from the kids themselves to understand what they want – at least in my classes.

In the past five years and I’ve had some pretty invigorating classes where students who’ve got mad with me and have even used the F-word because they disagreed me. I’ve never bothered to take action for that because at the end of the class, they know that I was just provoking them. We’ve had slanging matches in class too, and then gone to the canteen for tea. I like that kind of response.

I got the feeling that I was losing it, after I recently corrected answer papers of students. As I read answer after answer, what surprised me was that most of them had not even bothered to read what I had given them. And it wasn’t rocket science. Just the basic “what is the profile of a reporter” kind of a question. Frankly, it was depressing.

When I discussed this issue with a former student of mine before I wrote the blog post, she said, “Even to sit through a classroom lecture you need a fire in your belly. Half the kids sit there because they don’t know what they want to do, and try as you might, they will remain unresponsive. To be able to do something as simple as read a paper, you need to know why you’re reading it, and what eggs you on. To scores of students in a journalism class, the newspaper is something that they pick up two days before an exam.”

There’s a general apathy in classrooms to everything that requires a little effort and which is disheartening. What kind of journalists are we churning out? When they come for admissions they give the standard answers about their “passion” for journalism without understanding what the word means. But then you think, these are bright young children, they will change for the better. After all, these were the handful who got in from the thousands who tried and failed. So, they will shine as they go along. Let’s wait and see.

There are the exceptions, but one can count them on the fingertips. Even then I revel in their success. I could name those handful of kids who are doing a great job of their careers, but I’d rather not. And not all of them have ended up in journalism. Like this young man who is teaching underprivileged children and genuinely believes that is his calling, and not journalism – at least not at present. I admire his dedication and his single-mindedness. I told him that he was one of my best students, much before he had even reached his final year.

There are a few kids who are focused about becoming photographers or getting into advertising or PR. They’ve sat through my classes and one young lady in the second year came up to me and said “I enjoy your lectures, but I am not interested in journalism. I am going to become a photographer.” I’ve seen her picture and her self portraits and she’s going to become a brilliant photographer one day. Then there was this attractive young girl in journalism class who ended up acting in a movie! I had once told her she was in the wrong place and should be either modelling or in the movies!

I remember, a couple of years ago in a class with PG students I was stopped from taking a lecture. The students demanded a discussion on an issue that they were worked up about. The same thing happened in a UG lecture in 2011. I think it was on Anna Hazare. A young lady had a heated argument with me and thought Hazare was the worst thing to happen to India. There was a verbal free-for-all that day, but I enjoyed it, and so did the class. But that was two years ago. Since then, such exchanges have been limited.

In 2005 I took a break from journalism and returned five years later totally focused about the fact that I was good at only one thing – journalism! Some months ago, a good friend offered me a job in his company on a pretty impressive salary. I refused. I live and breathe newspapers, and when I turned down the offer, there was no doubt in my mind, why I did so.

After five years, maybe, it is time I take a break from teaching, if nothing works to make it more interesting. Any ideas, anyone?


The article was written by me in May, 2011, when I was working with Car India* magazine, on the lopsided manner in which taxes are being levied on the national highways. I was asked by a journalist friend to reproduce and document the articles and put them in the public domain. So here goes…

A FEW MONTHS ago, social activist Anna Hazare threatened to launch an agitation against illegal collection of toll. This was after a high-level committee of PWD chief engineers recommended that 31 out of 165 toll nakas in Maharashtra should be abolished as they were set up in blatant violation of norms prescribed by the Centre. Under ‘pressure’, the State Government closed down a number of them.

For the record, Maharashtra has 165 toll nakas; 28 of which belong to the National Highways Authority of India; 61 belong to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and 56 to the Public Works Department. So, is it time for the government to have a Toll Regulatory Commission like they have for the Power sector?

A toll booth on the highway

A toll booth on the highway

Not all travellers who pay toll on the highways protest, but some have objected to the unsavoury manner in which money is being collected. What motorists want to know is on what basis toll is calculated between two points, and once calculated what’s the criteria for increasing it? Motoring enthusiast and frequent traveller Parag Sachania says he pays Rs 487 when he travels from Pune to Bengaluru via Nelemangala.

Another frequent traveller H.V. Kumar says he pays Rs 682 from Mumbai to Bengaluru via the Vashi Bridge and the Expressway. He says there are also smart motorists who beat the system by scouting around for alternative non-toll routes!

Why pay toll when they already pay so many other taxes, cess and a whopping one-time vehicle registration fee, and when maintenance is definitely not as costly?

Of the Rs 880 billion envisaged for the construction of national highways and supernational highways as per the Rakesh Mohan ‘India Infrastructure Report’ of 1993, Rs 230 billion was to be raised through private sector participation. Similarly for the State Highways, Rs 60 billion of Rs 300 billion was to be raised in the same way. The report also suggested:

a) That substantial portions, if not all, of the revenues from taxes on motor vehicles, transportation fuel be earmarked for road development b) Setting up of a Roads Board to ensure the coordinated development of the trunk-route system and adoption of a highway development policy by the government c) Four laning of some of the existing highways be done through public-toll road method d) Comprehensive guidelines and procedures for approval of private sector projects.

When the State Governments decided to award contracts through the Build Operate Transfer or BOT system, it was seen as a win-win situation for everyone – agency, Central and State governments. Private entrepreneurs made all the investments and then recovered the amount from the public through toll over a certified duration. But some things were unclear. What was the ‘certified duration’ and how much? Why weren’t the funds being used to improve infrastructure and facilities? Curiously enough, while doing a story on speeding on the e-way last month, when Car India spoke to an IRB official, he specifically said that the agency did not have the authority to carry out large-scale repairs but only do minor maintenance.

A public interest litigation (PIL) filed by RTI activist and former Spl. IG and police medal awardee S.M. Mushrif, in 2007, raised questions against the haphazard manner in which toll was being extracted on the various highways around the country. When he asked through the RTI, about the rule under which toll collection is done, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) provided him a copy of a Central government notification dated 5 May, 2005 (issued by the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport-and Highways) which stated that the agency was entitled to collect and retain fees at such rate, for services or benefits rendered by him as specified by the Central Government in the official gazette. This rule applied to the highway departments of all State governments.

Interestingly, the MSRDC appointed an independent consultant for monitoring toll collection. However, the engineer of this consultancy company who was present while Mushrif was conducting the inspection of files told him, “We monitor everything else, like operation and maintenance, but do not look into the revenue from toll collection.’’

Recently, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway hiked its toll rate from Rs 140 to Rs 165 for motor cars. Former journalist and RTI activist from Pune, Vinita Deshmukh, who is protesting against the manner in which toll is being levied on the expressway, believes MSRDC does not have any mechanism to monitor whether the toll collection on the expressway is being carried out in a transparent manner. Deshmukh also filed an RTI application seeking details of the toll collection on the expressway.

She said that the IRB had entered into a contract with the Maharashtra government stating that for 15 years — from the beginning of fiscal 2004 to the -end of the 2019 financial year — they would collect toll and maintain the expressway. IRB had paid an advance of Rs 918 crore to the Maharashtra government that would be recovered from the toll. The charges also included the investments made by IRB and the yearly maintenance of the expressway. But there are no clauses in the contract that specify how much IRB should continue to collect. It has so far collected nearly Rs 1000 crore, as against the projected amount of Rs 606 crore as envisaged by the IRB initially.

While the 1993 Rakesh Mohan report suggested that the cost of building highways could be recovered from the user, it also suggested a modern maintenance and management system for the benefit of users, maintenance of existing highways, prevention of encroachments on highway land, facilities for traffic, including providing relief for accident victims and ensuring removal of bottlenecks in traffic movement. Have all these issues been implemented?

Travel on any highway at night, and you’ll know!

(Reproduced with permission from Next Gen Publishing)

Pic by Sanjay Raikar


The article was written by me when I was working with Car India* magazine, on the state of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, in April 2011. The way accidents are happening even today, it’s obvious nothing much has changed. There have been around 400 deaths on this stretch since 2009. I was asked by a journalist friend to reproduce and document the articles and put them in the public domain. So here goes…

****

Crouched behind a tripod on which is attached a computerised camera, on the side of the Yashwantrao Chavan Pune-Mumbai expressway, I realise, we live dangerously too. As a car approaches, I train the camera on the car’s registration number plate. I hear a click and look at the screen. It says 142 kmph. Then a cop, quick as a flash, armed with a paper, pen and (obviously) 6/6 vision, notes down the number. He then calls the cops waiting at the toll post ahead and gives them the number. The motorist is then fined.

Of the 100-odd cars that I see hurtling past me, I count just three that are travelling between 80-90 kmph . The rest are all doing between 100-160 kmph.

Ironically, there is a sign that greets motorists on the hi-speed highway -“Make driving safe on the expressway.”

India’s first international-class speedway, that connects Pune and Mumbai was made fully operational in April 2002. Not only has it cut down travel time between Mumbai and Pune by almost an hour, it has also made driving a pleasure – until recently. The expressway handles about 30,000 PCUs* daily, and is designed to handle up to 1,000,000 PCUs.

However, what the Highway Police are attempting to do is to nail speeding (one more is in the other lane and two more are under repair). The expressway cost Rs 1,630 crore to build and automatic speed cameras cost around Rs 10 lakh each! The cops, either need at least four times the number, or a state-of-the-art surveillance system. They say they have neither.

But, according to SP, Highways B.G. Shekhar, there are 16 speed guns and 80 breath analysers along the expressway. Just two were sighted when Car India travelled up and down the expressway on two consecutive days. An unnamed police official said there are just six in working condition.

“The proposal to install enforcement cameras and vigilance cameras was submitted in August 2010 and is in the pipeline,” he says. There is also the Rasta Suraksha Abhiyaan that is held at regular intervals to educate drivers. This has reduced fatal accidents by almost 206, he claims.

The writer operates a speed camera and discovers that for every one vehicle that is caught on camera, five get away!

The writer operates a speed camera and discovers that for every one vehicle that is caught on camera, five get away!

In the 443 accidents that have occurred on the expressway in 2010, 101 have been fatal with 103 people having lost their lives. This year (2011), 12 major accidents have occurred so far, as this article goes to print. One software engineer lost his life recently after his car crashed when he was travelling to Mumbai to pick up his wife from Sahar airport; Three people died on February 21, when two trucks brushed past each other and one of them lost control and crashed; in early February, a Wagon -R with at least ten passengers, was hit from the rear by a tempo; nine people died in that mishap. So why has this dream stretch become a nightmare? The reasoning that the casualty figures aren’t as high as some other highways, doesn’t really hold water, because we are not talking about a distance from Mumbai to Agra which is roughly 1,200 kms. We are talking less than 100 kms.

“Since January, 25 people have lost their lives on the expressway or have been brought into the hospital in a critical condition and succumbed to injuries,” says a doctor (name withheld) from the Lokmanya Hospital in Nigdi.

The hospital, which is one of the closest to the e-way, gets at least one call per day regarding mishaps on this stretch. A fortnight ago, while returning from Mumbai, two staffers of Car India had a taste of an errant driver in a four-wheel drive, who came perilously close to their vehicle. They laughed it off by saying that he was probably admiring their jeep, but who’s to say he hadn’t fallen asleep on the wheel?

Shekhar says that 75 per cent of the accidents are a result of human error.

Vehicles driven at night are involved in the maximum number of mishaps. There are a number of reasons for this – speeding, tiredness, inexperienced drivers, mechanical failures, disregard for motor vehicle rules, error of judgement etc.

“The State Home Minister realising the seriousness of the situation has sanctioned Rs 320 crore for Emergency Medical Response Teams (EMRT) on the expressway. Ambulances equipped with state-of-the-art services, manned by doctors and nurses, will be within 50 metres of any accident spot and their movements will be controlled by GPS,” he says.

A speed gun measures a car doing 140 kmph on the expressway. All pics by Sanjay Raikar

A speed gun measures a car doing 140 kmph on the expressway. All pics by Sanjay Raikar

But let’s talk about those who use the e-way regularly. How many know and – if they know – care to observe the rule that they should be driving in the middle lane (or Lane No. 2)? The lane to the extreme right (lane No. 1) is ONLY for overtaking vehicles and the one to the extreme left is ONLY for heavy vehicles. On our drive on the e-way we see an MSRTC Shivneri bus and a Volkswagen fight for space, each trying to outdo the other!

Motorists being fined at the Urse Toll Post initially refuse to believe that they are speeding and when shown the evidence try to bluster their way through.

Some of the really absurd answers one hears are “I didn’t know there was a speed limit”; “let us go this time, we won’t speed again”; “I didn’t know the marker that says ‘80’ is a speed limit warning”!

An MP from Pune district has even written to the authorities on February 16, demanding the removal of speed limits. There may be merit in his missive because one can’t expect a BMW, Volkswagen or a Mercedes to travel at 80 kmph. The authorities, realising that automobiles have become faster in the last decade are looking to raise speed limits.

The Highway Police too have a litany of complaints – some justified, some just excuses. Apart from the infrastructure issues mentioned above, there is also the problem of manpower shortage – one man doing the job of four. That is a convenient tool to use when they are confronted with traffic problems on the e-way. Take the problem of parking and stopping on the e-way.

Signboards tell motorists loud and clear that halting is not permitted. But there are trucks and cars parked on either side of the tarmac. Not all of them have broken down. There are trailer/container trucks on the expressway and many of them are not allowed on the e-way. So how are they there?

At the Maruti Mandir on the way down towards Mumbai, there is a line of trucks parked, leaving very little space for other vehicles. The reason? There is a tea shop next to the mandir, where truckers make a pit stop for a cuppa! What’s a tea shop doing there, bang opposite of which is the Highway Traffic Police Post? It is alleged that the tea stall owner has political connections and any attempt to move him from his perch is met with ‘resistance’ So he stays put.

There are also incidents of vehicles being driven on the wrong side. Apart from four-wheelers, the biggest culprits are the beat marshals and cops on two-wheelers. Or are they exempt from the rules? More importantly, why are they riding motorcycles, when two-wheelers are banned on the e-way? Shouldn’t ‘charity’ begin at home? Incidentally, two police jeeps are lying in the workshop, one for over a year and the other for six months. The government claims it does not have the funds!

However, some cops not wishing to come on record, say that the drivers should be made to pay hefty fines along with the toll. They have asked for a steep rise in penalties for speeding and rash driving. But these demands are still pending with the higher authorities, they claim. So until that happens, passengers continue to live dangerously and flirt with death on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, because drivers don’t believe in following the rules.

*PCU – is a metric used in Transportation Engineering, to assess traffic-flow rate on a highway.

* All pics by Sanjay Raikar

(Reproduced with permission from Next Gen Publishing)