The traffic policemen at Mamura crossing

I need to drive through the Mamura crossing if I am not taking the NH 24 to go to any part of the city. I have gone through the crossing numerous times and at all possible times of the day and night. Most of my drives are during the peak hours. And at these hours one can assess the situation in and around the crossing. Otherwise, during the odd hours like early morning or late night, smooth ride through the crossing is a certainty.

During the peak hours, I need to wait necessarily for 5 to 10 minutes in this crossing. The waiting time for the light green for me is 150 seconds. During these seconds, I can advance only a few yards once the light is green for me. The assorted vehicles ahead of me move at a snail’s pace. So at least after 3 such attempts, I am successful in negotiating the crossing. From any direction, there are at least 50 to 100 vehicles forming a chaotic crowd up to 500 meters (sometimes a kilometer). Then there are pedestrians let loose from all directions. There is no pedestrian movement facility provided at the crossing. So the hapless and hurrying pedestrians take whatever space available to them to cross the roads. This affects the movement of the vehicles and the resultant chaos.

All these explanations above is to make one understand the most disheveled and messy circumstances during peak hours. Still, the site of the traffic policemen is the only succour in the commotion. I have keenly observed that actions of the traffic policemen at the crossing. They are a lot of about 4 people, 2 among them would be actual traffic constables and two would be drawn from the home guard and private guard pool. Private guards are stationed to help in the construction of the metro line that is coming up across the crossing.

There is no traffic island from where the traffic police can direct traffic. As normally expected, the traffic police would stand on an elevated spot in the middle of the junction where from he would manage and guide the traffic. The elevated spot is supposed to be protected and also provide shade to the traffic police for protection from rain and sunlight. Such a luxury is missing at this crossing. The policemen are constantly on move from one corner to the other corner of the crossing. The traffic signals notwithstanding, the commuters pay no heed to the signals. There is also a provision of timer fitted in the signals. Instead of waiting patiently considering the time available to the colour to change, the commuters show all negative reactions. If there is still few seconds left for the colour to change from red to green, the impatient traffic would approach the middle of the junction blocking the way for the oncoming traffic. Same is the case for the traffic who, sensing that the time is running out for them, would step up the gas to cross the junction hurriedly causing a further commotion. The policeman would move from one side to another side sensing the timings of the signal to turn from green to red. He would have to wave to the oncoming traffic to stop. The traffic would not listen. They would continue to surge ahead. After a hectic effort for about 10 to 15 seconds, the traffic would be forcibly stopped by the policemen by abusing, shouting and waving the stick and then the traffic from the side for which the signal is already green would start rolling. Since they have lost few precious seconds, they would also not budge once the light turns red. Thus the vicious circle goes on.

Imagine the plight of the policemen. During the period from 8 am to about 10 am in the morning and about the same period in the evening, the traffic policemen would be thoroughly busy. They are standing throughout. There is no option for them to check the traffic violations during the period. Traffic violations are aplenty. Basic traffic rules such as two-wheeler rider without helmet, 3 or more on a two wheeler in place of the permitted two, auto-rickshaws carrying more than the permitted number of passengers, car drivers without the safety belt on, trucks plying during no entry time zones, vehicles jumping red signal, vehicles violating one-way rules, illegal parking or waiting at the junction, bus drivers not driving in the designated lane etc. are just not possible for the traffic policemen at the crossing to enforce. They are just busy in clearing the crowd. They have to shout, cajole, verbally abuse and pretend to hit the violators all the time during the period. The policeman carries a stick or cane. I feel that the cane or the stick is just an extended part of his arm as nobody is really afraid of the beating. As he cannot extend his hand to waive the crowd to either stop or move, he uses the stick which is visible from a distance in the turmoil at the junction.

I have often seen the visibly upset and heckled policeman drinking water from a plastic bottle at a corner of the crossing looking hapless at the endless flow of unruly traffic from all directions. The stare of his eyes tells all. He knows it is unmanageable. He knows that his efforts are thankless. He knows that the surrounding traffic has no empathy for him. He knows that he is treated more as a traffic hazard than a person who is entrusted with the responsibility of driving out that hazard. He knows that there is no acknowledgement for his efforts. He knows that the superiors will pull him up for even a trivial issue in traffic management. The water in his bottle is hot and hardly quenches his thirst. For many jobs, there is time to visit the loo or to have time off to have a cup of tea or bite a little snack. He has no such luxury. He shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders and dutifully resumes his job.

As I said elsewhere that the sight of the policemen is the only succour in the melee, this is the only solace in the whole hullaballoo. There have been quite a few occasions when there is no traffic police in sight (for whatever reason). You won’t be able to realise the commotion unless you are caught in such a situation. I have gone through such a situation a number of times. From my experience, I know that I need to quickly turn back and do it as fast as possible for I know that if I get stuck there, God knows when I would be out of the mess. At times I am not so lucky to turn back for a number of vehicles have already occupied all the space around my vehicle. At all times, a single traffic policeman comes and manages the situation. The general public, many of them are knowledgeable and respectable gentlemen, turn onlookers of the melee and do not venture to loosen the knot, the traffic jam that is. The uniform does all. A skinny or a pot-bellied gentleman, in an attire of traffic police is able to accomplish what a sea of mankind juxtaposed in that commotion could not achieve.

The traffic signals are supposed to replace manual control of traffic movement in a junction. In this crossing, the signals work with a timer device. Traffic should flow effortlessly at this crossing without any hindrance. Disappointingly, that is not the case. Traffic police are needed to enforce the discipline. I have observed at many traffic junctions where the automatic signals with timer are working and no traffic police are posted, commuters give a damn, they just do not follow the signals routinely.

The purpose of this blog is to salute the traffic policemen, to acknowledge their efforts to maintain order and to thank them for a ‘smooth’ passage every time I cross through the junction at peak hours. We are quick at pointing fingers at them charging them with corrupt practices. But we forget that this is we who actually initiate such actions. We are not patient enough to wait for the signal to turn green, we step on the accelerator pedal as the signal is turning yellow instead of slowing down, we are not patient enough to allow the legitimate passer-by’s from other directions, we are not ready to stick to the designated lane, we are not ready to obey the basic traffic rules while, surprisingly, expecting others to emulate the same. In short, we are to take the blame solely on ourselves for the daily rigmarole of commotion at the crossing.

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