Archive for the ‘Pune Traffic Police’ Category


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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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.


This morning I was on my way to SIMC, Lavale, when at the intersection near the Bombay Engineering and Group (BEG) on Deccan College Road, I saw a young girl on a scooter with a look that really captured the mood of most people in the city. It was one of complete resignation, tiredness. This is what we have been reduced to.

Sometime earlier, in jest I told my wife that one of these days I was going to step out of the car with the crowbar I keep under the seat and smash the headlight of the car behind me if the driver honks. But there have been days I’ve actually felt like doing something drastic to the guy in the car behind mine! For example, I can’t understand why people honk in a traffic jam or a traffic intersection. When they honk do they expect that my car and I will like Mary Poppins and her damn umbrella, just rise in the air and fly over the traffic? Since I am not the violent type, all I do is swear at the guy from within the confines of my car, with the glass rolled up. My wife says she can’t see the point in swearing at someone who can’t hear a word! My reply is it makes me feel a lot better!!

But about a year ago I was at a railway crossing in the city waiting for the gates to go up. A car drove up behind mine and started honking. For a second I thought the gates had gone up, but it hadn’t. Then after a while the car honked again. This happened a few times after which I lost my cool. I stepped out, walked back the car and saw a lady inside, told her to roll down the window and gave her a mouthful. I then walked back to my car and waited for the gates to open. There was no more honking, not even when the gates were opened!

Take what happened last month and is continuing to date. Idea Cellular has problems with their billing system and I get calls every few days telling me that my calls will be blocked if I don’t pay my bill. I settled my bills on the 24th of last month! Every time I get a call from them I go through the whole exercise of explaining the issue and they say, “Ok Sir, the issue has been resolved.” Later in the day or the next day I get call from Idea Cellular telling me that my bills are still unpaid! Ideally (no pun intended) I would like to go over to the Idea office and shake them up, but after the time I spend travelling and lecturing, I am in no mood to argue with some idiotic billing clerk who doesn’t know her mobile phone from her lipstick.

Yesterday, as I drove to Lavale from Viman Nagar I saw smartly dressed policemen stationed every 400 metres all along the route. They were in attendance for the crown prince of Indian politics – Rahul Gandhi, who was in the city. Where do these uniformed gentry disappear to when it comes to manning the traffic when we need them and saving us from these torturous journeys?

And then there was the traffic cop who tried to levy a fine because I had parked my car in an area which he claimed was a ‘No Parking’ zone. I asked him to show me a ‘No Parking’ sign anywhere on the road and when he realised there wasn’t any he resorted to some old fashioned ‘dada-giri’. By then other car owners who were also about to be penalised gathered there and raised a hue and cry. The cop had to beat a hasty retreat. Not for one moment am I suggesting that Pune’s Traffic Police is not doing their job. I know they are terribly understaffed and underpaid. But if they enforced road discipline systematically instead of cosmetically, things would be so much better.

So coming back to the girl on the scooter…she was waiting for the light to turn green, her chin cupped in her palm, her elbow resting on the dashboard of her scooter. It was her face that caught my attention. For one so young she had a look that said “I’d rather be someplace else.” I understood that look completely. I travel three hours every day shuttling between the places I lecture. And it’s not the distance but the journey that frustrates me. If that isn’t bad enough, I have to listen to crap from the telephone man to the traffic cop, avoid errant drivers and lunatics on two wheelers, ans listen to neighbours squabbling over either the elevator in the building or the minimal rise in Society fees. It make me wonder how I still keep my sanity around me.


Lokmanya Tilak might have uttered the famous words “Swaraj is my birthright,” but people in our country have taken that one step further. They break the law and think it’s their right!

I’ve been reading with interest all the reports and articles on the new traffic plan that the Pune Police has implemented to ease congestion on the roads. “Don’t have a left turn here… don’t allow right turn there… don’t have a bus stop here…don’t have road dividers here…” we can read it all in the newspapers. Columns, opinions, letters, reports – you name it, they are all there. Everyone who is someone in the city is voicing his or her opinion on the issue and where else can they do it but in the ever willing media. So here is my two cents worth…

Everywhere in the world there are traffic laws and everywhere people follow them diligently – except in our country. Drive on any road anywhere in the country and you will see how vehicle owners use the roads, and Pune is no exception.

I might be painting myself in a corner here, but I think apart from Delhi, Pune has the most number of uneducated (in terms of traffic rules), and ill-mannered vehicle owners. That is not to say that everyone who owns a vehicle is a lout, but they will soon be a helpless and powerless minority. There are a burgeoning number of vehicle owners in Pune who believe that they can get away with anything – even causing mayhem– on the roads.

Everyone who’s been complaining about the problem with the new traffic diversions in Pune and blaming the Traffic Police for it should realise that the problem lies elsewhere – with us, our skewed driving sense, and our blatant disregard for the law.

Stop at any traffic intersection and what do you see? Vehicles parked over the pedestrian crossing instead of behind it, and worse making an additional two lanes right in the way of oncoming traffic. Actually these idiots do it with pride. Garv se kaho hum idiot hain!

The Traffic Police can also solve the problem in a few weeks. They forced people to put on their seat belts didn’t they, so what stops them for enforcing the law now? If we observed lane discipline, more than more half the traffic problems in this city will cease to exist. Peak-hour traffic may be slow but at least there will be order.

Yes, yes, I know what some of my friends will say – too many vehicles on the road, stop the Nano, etc etc. Even if we halve the traffic in this city, these problems will still not go away. And we know why… We may or may not be able to do something about the ever increasing number of vehicles in the city. But we can surely do something to reduce the chaos that unfolds on the roads every day.

I was in Pune’s Deccan Gymkhana a few days back in the midst of chaos. As I sat in my car waiting for things to return to normal, I realised it was no use blaming only the police. I saw a private bus which was on the extreme left coolly cut across to the right, almost hitting a car and holding up traffic. I also saw a two-wheeler rider scrape past a car from the left unconcerned that he had damaged another vehicle. So many vehicle owners are not even aware that overtaking from the left is an offence!

See how people have refused to accept the crash-helmet rule. I’ve heard some really bizarre excuses from those who want to avoid wearing helmets – can’t hear the traffic noise; spoils the hair; perspire too much; whistling sound in the ears; safety clip chokes us; and the list is endless. That it can save your life doesn’t outweigh all those cockeyed excuses.

I once saw an accident near RSI where an ST bus knocked down a girl who was overtaking from the left. It was clearly the girl’s fault, but the bystanders roughed up the bus driver. Like always ‘well-wishers’’ crawled out from somewhere to execute summary justice on behalf of the accident victim. Someone should have slapped the girl really hard for deliberately breaking a traffic rule, endangering her life and creating a nuisance on a public road.

So let’s stop blaming the Traffic Police in any city. They have a difficult job on their hands and we don’t make it any easier.