Archive for June, 2015

Whenever I drive to Mumbai, the Mumbai-Bangalore Highway or go to some institutes for lectures, I usually take the Kondhwa bypass to Katraj and then from there continue on the Bangalore bypass towards Mumbai. And every time I drive from there, I do so with extreme trepidation. I never know when a vehicle will cross me at one of the manmade openings on the road or when I’ll find someone popping over the hedge to cross the road.

Earlier, I would stay on the extreme left once I got onto the Katraj bypass, but now I can’t even do that because buses, six-seater autos and trucks, along with people, and parked on that side of the road. So I am forced to drive on the right. Then as one drives along the road and crosses the Bangalore bypass, one comes to a bridge which has six-seater autos parked right on the bridge, waiting for passengers. How does the Pune Traffic Police or even the Highway Police allow these vehicles to park there? No one knows.

This particular stretch of the highway has today become just another arterial road that people living in the city use to travel from home to office, and with the kind of sorry traffic sense Punekars are known for, I am not all surprised, that the accident that happened on June 11 on this stretch of road, did not happen earlier. Many Punekars use the city’s roads with contempt for traffic rules. They believe the rules are there, and if they can break it and keep breaking it, till they are either fined, knocked down, knock someone else down, kill someone or get killed (hopefully), the joyride at the expense of others will continue.

I was in Mumbai last weekend and the Pune effect has reached their too. I saw so many people jumping traffic signals it left me dismayed. I always thought Mumbaikars had more traffic sense than the average Indian, but I guess times change. I drove on the two-lane freeway to CST and marvelled at the ride I was having. And then on Tuesday I read about the drunk, female lawyer who drove on the wrong side of the freeway and killed two people. I didn’t think it was a dangerous stretch at all. I guess it is us humans who make it that. Just like the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

However, coming back to the streets of the city, I realise why the police really can’t do much. Their own rules are messed up. I am sure, they would like to pick up a cane and use it at free will on traffic offenders. In the early days they did, but now with citizens’ rights groups and traffic rights group in the forefront ready to make a noise about anything and everything, the cops often find themselves functioning with their hands tied behind their backs. The non-imposition of the helmet rule is a good example.

While I understand the Pune Traffic Police is doing a difficult job, my problem with their functioning is that their focus is on how much money they can bring in to their coffers. When they announce in a press release that they have collected `7 crores from the city’s errant motorists and riders, my first thought is “That’s a lot of law-breakers in this city!”

The other day I parked my car in a lane where the only two ‘no-parking’ boards were supposedly on one side of either end of the road. For regulars who live on that road or have offices there, it’s easy to know that the road even has ‘odd’ and ‘even’ parking days. But what does a stranger do when he enters the lane and finds cars parked on both sides? Was I supposed to look for ‘no-parking’ board at the beginning of the road or worry about the car in front in bumper-to-bumper traffic? And it wasn’t as if I was the only one parked on that side of the road. I asked the chap who had locked my wheel where the ‘no-parking’ boards were and he pointed vaguely in both directions. Then I asked him why other cars parked near mine had been spared. He pretended he hadn’t heard. Putting up boards in places which won’t be noticed is a great way for the cops to make money. There is no point complaining that they are short-staffed. The public, at least those who believe in following the law, are not interested in listening to these excuses from the Pune Traffic Police.

Pune also has seven MLAs and I would like to know how many times they have spoken for the betterment of Pune? How many of them have spoken up in the Assembly and pushed for an adequately manned police force if they want it to be a better city? Politicians want to make Pune a smart city. I wonder if they even know what the term means. If the Pune Police with all the help from the city’s politicians can’t improve the traffic in the city, Pune won’t be a smart city just a smartass city!