Archive for the ‘Pune Police’ Category

I don't know the source of this picture, and will happily give them credit.  But it really puts in a nutshell the issue being discussed here.

I don’t know the source of this picture, and will happily give them credit. But it really puts in a nutshell the issue being discussed here.

So the Pune Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol finally articulated what a lot of us have been saying for years – that Pune’s vehicle owners lack traffic sense and discipline. Earlier, we used to joke that Pune’s traffic has become so bad because of the influx of North Indians, especially motorists from Delhi. But that comment was made more in jest because the national capital has become everyone’s favourite punching bag when it comes to issues about crimes against women or even bad drivers.

However, for Pune’s top cop to make such a statement also mirrors the frustration of the police force in being unable to control the menace of rash driving. Just the other day, while discussing the future of the Buddh Formula 1 circuit in Noida, after F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone pulled out of India, my colleague at the sports desk was telling me about how the race track was doing just fine even without the annual jamboree. It seems the rich and famous from Delhi and the NCR pay out a fancy sum to race their Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis and other mean machines at the Buddh circuit because the roads in Delhi are really not the place where they can keep their foot down on the accelerator! Even there, one has to follow some rules.

But that is Delhi and we aren’t talking mean machines. We are talking about the citizens of Pune using the roads like it is their private racing track, with utter disregard for the law. That there has been a huge spurt in the number of vehicles – both of the two and four-wheeler kind – seen in the city, is obvious. The police chief said there were 12 lakh more vehicles in Pune as compared to Mumbai and everyday 931 vehicles are being added to that number. A few months ago I used to cover the distance of approximately 14 kms from my home to office in 30 to 40 minutes. Today the same distance takes me between 60 and 90 minutes. It’s surely not the state of the roads or the number if vehicles that are alone to blame. It is also the idiot on the road who believes traffic rules are meant for Martians and not Earthlings.

So while I still wait at the traffic intersection behind the zebra crossing, for the lights to turn green, I find others, driving past utterly contemptuous of the law. I also see Pune Police personnel looking on impassively, probably frustrated, because they also know there’s nothing much they can do except penalise someone. And then should they spend their time worrying about directing traffic on a busy intersection or waste time cutting a receipt? That is when you realise that it is not just the citizen, but even the law is an ass.

With nothing stricter than a few hundred rupees as a penalty for flouting traffic rules, no one really cares. Six hundred rupees is the maximum penalty and that is for not carrying valid insurance papers! For offences related to driving alone the fines range from 100 to 500 bucks. Sure you can go to jail for killing someone, but that is an extreme case and even then, it is a bailable offence. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out why vehicle owners use the roads the way they do. Hundred rupees is small change today for most people. It means a packet of cigarettes less that day or roughly a litre of petrol less. It’s manageable. Just yesterday I was reading that in PCMC the fines for erring vehicle owners are being upped to between Rs 1000 and Rs 5000. That’s a start.

What the Traffic Police in Pune should do instead is to confiscate not just the licence of the erring vehicle owner, but the vehicle as well and then make the offender travel across town to pay the fine.  For example, if the offence is committed at Swargate, the offender should be told to leave his vehicle at the nearest police station, travel to the RTO at Vishrantwadi or a place even further away to pay Rs 1000 as fine, and only then pick up his vehicle – at his own expense. If the offence is committed at Vishrantwadi tell the offender he or she has to pay a fine at some obscure RTO post or police station at the other end of town. And if that means you’re going to be late for a job interview, too bad…The next time you might think twice before breaking the law.

But are Pune’s errant vehicle owners alone to blame for this mess? At the same event on Wednesday, the police chief spoke about the use of crash helmets. He said there are more accidents in Pune than there are in Mumbai, but people refuse to wear helmets. How many police personnel do you see wearing helmets? I have often seen police vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road, and also ignore a red light. When the police department itself treats the law with such contempt, what do they expect the citizens to do?

Unfortunately, even our politicians who frame legislation are only worried about the impact such harsh laws could have on their vote-bank. Traffic safety and lives lost is not really their concern. It’s the guy who stands in line to vote who is their concern. After all, the dead can’t vote.


I’m hopping mad at a few things I’ve been reading about recently…
Cancelling rock music shows, performances by people like Lucky Ali or even raiding parties at farm houses is the most idiotic reaction by the Pune Police I’ve seen, since I was an eighteen year old. Are we sliding back into the silly ages?

According to some it’s the parents who are upset that their children attend these shows and get drunk or inhale banned substances. Firstly, a lot of parents should take a good look at themselves in the mirror and think back to the time they were in teens. Secondly, if parents can’t develop that trust with their children then they have only themselves to blame. And because they can’t rein in their kids they push it on the policemen?

I’m pretty sure many parents sneaked around as kids, doing things they now don’t want their kids to do. Have we forgotten those long drives with girl friend(s) or that surreptitious ciggy in the public garden after sunset or as we got older, bringing friends home to party when the folks were out? That is not to say parents should turn a blind eye to what their children do. But running to the cops is hardly the solution!

So to feign helplessness and run to the police is the worst thing parents could do to alienate themselves from their children. And for the police to take up cudgels on behalf of parents, it must mean they really have nothing better to do. At least this is what I read in the case of the police raiding the kiddie party hosted in some farmhouse in the city. Why did the parents give permission to their children to attend such a party, in the first place? And now politicians jump into the fray telling teenagers to stop partying.

Why don’t the police do what they are supposed to do – stop bomb blasts, murders, rapes and other crimes, instead of playing nursemaid to unfit parents? Pune hasn’t exactly been a model city this last decade and the cops are largely responsible for that decline.

Not all children think living away from their parents means brushing their teeth with Old Monk every morning and using a spoon for purposes other than stirring a tea cup, in the evenings. I know a lot of responsible students who understand the fact that parents are paying so much for their education because it would help them make a better life. If some youngsters don’t understand that, then it’s for the parents to find a way out.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the report that said that police officials would be meeting college principals and headmasters to discuss the growing phenomenon of young students “seeking entertainment that did not augur well with their age”! Pray, how do college principals keep a check on a student once he or she leaves the college premises?

Then we have the case of the cops stopping rock shows, because young people do things they shouldn’t be doing. Why not just evict those who are under the influence of booze and drugs? I’m sure there must be enough people at such concerts who come to listen to the music and chill. Why spoil their fun? It’s time the police officials learn to to do their jobs in the manner they should instead of these absurd knee-jerk reactions because a handful of brats make a nuisance of themselves. And what’s the guarantee that there are no oddballs getting drunk or stoned at a performance of Ustad Zakir Hussain or Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma or Shobha Gurtu or Shubha Mudgal?

Sometime in 1984, I went for an out-of-the-world music performance in Mumbai’s Cooperage ground. Everyone was seated, there was no dancing or anyone going crazy, and I could smell smoke of a different kind blowing in the wind. It was pretty obvious the smell wasn’t of just tobacco but no one bothered the next guy. There were teenagers mingling with adults and everyone was loving the music from the quartet who had the audience eating out of their hand. No one misbehaved, no one was thrown out and everyone was having a good time. Guess who was playing – Ustad Zakir Hussain, John McLaughlin, Vikku Vinayakram and L Shankar aka Shakti.

Wear a helmet, PLEASE!

Posted: December 2, 2009 in Pune Police
Tags: ,

Pune Mirror has launched a campaign for the use of crash helmets. It’s an excellent move and I completely endorse it. Every day there is a death on the roads of someone riding without a helmet and the numbers are rising.
Irresponsible two-wheeler riders have made life difficult on the roads for those who believe in diligently following traffic rules. Unfortunately, it seems like the Traffic Police has done nothing much except for the customary fines, which has only helped in making the Traffic Police richer. The chaos on the streets has increased with no one really caring too much about the danger they pose.
As a youngster I too loved speed and fast bikes. I too loved to go whizzing in and out of traffic. The thing is I last rode a two-wheeler in Pune, eleven years ago and the traffic wasn’t anything like it is today. I also don’t remember breaking a traffic rule, except maybe an odd parking ticket. Today I find vehicle owners, both two and four-wheelers, not really caring about where and how they park, and even worse, overtaking from the left, as if it’s the most natural thing to do.
Some months ago the Pune Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh remarked that the RTO was handing out licenses to kill because most vehicle owners did not know even the basic traffic rules. For example, they were NOT EVEN AWARE that overtaking from the left was a traffic offence!
Some twenty years ago, a friend who saw me ‘taking off’ from one of intersections the minute the light turned orange (yes in those the traffic lights were red, orange and green) remarked nastily “you don’t ride, you fly really low.” But even those days I wore a helmet and never hit anyone or was ever involved in an accident. I guess I was lucky. Others were not so lucky.
A friend, who was passionate about bikes and loved tinkering with them, lost his life when he hit the dividers on the road between Lulla Nagar and Golbar Maidan. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. Another friend almost died when he was speeding towards Chandni Chowk and went for a toss after his motorcycle hit a speed-breaker. Apart from the fact that he was without a helmet, he was also ‘high’. The doctors at the hospital refused to give him painkillers till his alcohol level came down and I remember him screaming in agony. I wondered then, whether reckless driving was worth it.
So let’s support this Pune Mirror initiative. I know what some people will say, that the paper is doing this to increase its circulation. My reply is ‘So what? As long as it can help to solve a problem, I don’t care’ As Mother Teresa said once when someone accused her of cavorting with dictators, while getting funds for her charity, “I’ll shake hands with the devil, if it helps my charity.”
I know we can’t do much about the burgeoning traffic on the city’s roads, but at least we can make it safe for everyone, vehicle owners and pedestrians alike. If Mumbai’s streets can have order with the mass of vehicles, why can’t Pune? All it takes is a little discipline. It’s time we showed it.