Mr Modi, please come to Pune every week!

Posted: January 1, 2015 in Pune, Pune Traffic Police, Punekar, traffic rules
Tags: , ,

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is about to fly into Pune for a bankers’ meet a few days from now and the roads all along the route are being spruced up. A fresh coat of paint here, a fresh roll of tar there and the hedges are being trimmed.

Pune is being made a Swachha city for the big day with the trash being pushed out of sight. The approach road to my place, which goes right past the venue, has suddenly got a cement patch with the dividers having appeared almost by magic. Funnily, the white dividers stop midway along the road almost as if the guy who was drawing it decided that it would go only as far as Mr Modi’s vision would permit!

More interestingly, traffic at intersections is being forced to stay behind the white line. For the Punekar who abhors traffic rules it must be doubly frustrating. But do not worry, the torture will only last a few days. And that is what this blog is about.

With due apologies to the much revered Lokmanya Tilak, many vehicle owners and pedestrians in Pune believe that breaking the law is their birthright! I consider myself a law abiding citizen when I am behind the wheel of a car or walking on the road. I don’t know if that also makes me stupid. There’s a huge number in the city that refuses to follow traffic rules and having lived in the city most of my life that should have become a part of my nature too by now. Thankfully, it has not.

The complete disregard for the law by the Punekar is appalling. They actually believe that they are within their rights to do so and no one, not even the police, can do a damn thing about it. I used to think that only in Delhi motorists honk to force you to cross the red light because they want to go. Today, I can honestly say that Pune has gone far ahead of the national capital in this aspect. Take any intersection, even in the cantonment, vehicle owners do not even slow down if they see a cop. They just speed through, and the cop looks on helplessly.

The pedestrian is not far behind. At the Swargate Bus stand crossing, probably the busiest in the city, there are at least four constables on duty, but not one stops  the pedestrian who brazenly strolls across even as the oncoming traffic begins to move. So while looking out for two-wheeler riders in the maze one has to dodge pedestrians as well. On the bridge that connects Tilak Road to Deccan Gymkhana, there is a wide footpath on either sie of the bridge, but people will still walk on the road. I’ve always wondered why. Can someone enlighten me? And these are not isolated examples.

And to add to the confusion, at times, is the Pune Traffic Police. In April 2012, the Supreme Court passed an order banning tinted glasses on car windows. The Pune Police then announced that they were going to “strictly implement” the ban. Of course, everything petered out after a few days of frenzied activity I later heard some convoluted explanation of percentage of tint or whatever and things eased off.

Suddenly two years later, they again announced that they were going to “strictly implement” the two-year old order. I finally decided to remove the film from my car instead of being hauled up by some enthusiastic traffic policeman who would insult me with “If senior journalists like you do this, what can we tell the common man?”. As I drove around looking for a dealer who would pull out the film I got stopped thrice. I was not fined because I told the cop that I was looking for a dealer for the very purpose. Two days after removing the film, I drove to Deccan Gymkhana and noticed the absence of any traffic policemen “strictly implementing” the law.

So my question is why does the Pune Police start something they either cannot do, or are unable to take to its logical conclusion? I understand that the decision is in pursuance of a Supreme Court ruling, so they should either take it to the logical end or stop wasting their and our time. It’s just like the crash helmet rule. Very few months it pops and the goes back on the shelf. They have launched various grand plans to improve the city’s traffic which after a week or so die a silent death.

I would be much happier if they threw up their hands and told the State government that there is nothing they can do unless they get the manpower and the infrastructure. I think the reason why ministers, MPs and MLAs never do anything is because they are never stuck in traffic, so they think everything is running just perfectly. So I hope and pray that one day the chief minister is in town and he gets stuck in a traffic jam on Jangli Maharaj Road or Tilak Road! Why the state government does not step in and help the Pune Traffic Police or for that matter police in every city, is a mystery to me. Pune has sent all its MLAs from the ruling party to the Vidhan Sabha. Can we expect something from them except homilies? Will Guardian Minister Girish Bapat do something>

Secondly, how is it that only the one class of people is caught? How about nailing the VIP and VVIP motorists driving those monster SUVs, Jaguars, Land Rovers, BMWs and Mercs? And let’s not forget the vehicles of politicians and the government officials. Have you see any policemen pulling up these motorists lately? Or are they exempt from the rule? So I see all those fancy cars zip around with pitch black film and I am left cursing my diligence!

But coming back to the prime minister’s visit, did it have to take that to force the Pune Traffic Police to make Punekars follow traffic rules? Before someone starts to think I am running down the traffic police, let me clarify, I have total respect for the people in khakhi. I know they are doing a difficult job because they are strapped for manpower and the number of vehicles is increasing at a scary rate which they have no control over.

When I read that Pune Traffic Police has collected quite a few crores as fines from erring vehicle owners for various offences, what it tells me apart from the obvious is that Pune is a city where law breakers seem to have a free run. They do not care about traffic rules and (more importantly) have no fear for the traffic policemen, who try valiantly to bring some sense into the madness – and fail.

So, in the end, it took a prime ministerial visit for the inept and slothful Pune Municipal Corporation to spring into action. Now if only this was done on a permanent basis! Maybe, Prime Minister Modi should come to Pune every other week and drive around the city for his viewing pleasure and see the mess unfolding before his very eyes!

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Comments
  1. Kevin R Lobo says:

    I remember about 8 years ago when the infamous Mr. Kalmadi’s son was getting married at Corinthians, the road from NIBM to Undri got street lights, a fresh layer of tar and perfect road markings! Overnight!
    But I honestly think helmet/window/any other SC rulings cannot be implemented unless the police force is reformed. I mean these guys are not going to respect the police when the police do not respect themselves

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