Traffic issues of Imphal

Lunminthang Haokip *

Past forward: In the Nineteen Seventies of the last Century, Imphal, Manpur's most happening city, unlike the scene we see today, had much lesser traffic volume on its streets and roads. As school-gong boys, every morning, we used to cycle with gay abandon on DM road along with verbal exchanges of youthful silly nothings. Vehicles plying on the road were few enough for bikers to hold centre-stage, at times, and pedal the spoked wheels in full speed with their hands off the handle.

The route leading to Khongnang Ani Karak, and Chingmeirong-area-located Schools, from Raj Bhavan, are almost the same in width, today, except for the later side-expansions. Presently, except on bandh day, the arterial roads of the State capital are chock-a-block with motor cars and SUVs of all types, to disappoint road-users in late arrival at places of appointment.

Effects of traffic jams: 10:00 to 11:30 AM and 4 to 6:30 pm are the peak rush-hours of Imphal's daily bumper-ramming vehicular rat race. Some bureaucrats have to reach office early so as to piece together papers and prepare points for an important meeting. Hindering attempts to overtake makes pulses racing. Appointments with a VIP drives an office-staff to gnash his teeth silently at the motor cars that block his way.

An airport-bound prospective passenger who started late from home under the optimism that they would have a hassle-free drive on Teddim road get jittery with the unexpected traffic mess on their path. Add to this, a fresh private firm employee, who fears reaching place of placement late, getting trapped in vehicular jam. Commuters, for no fault of theirs, are getting on the nerves of one another on our roads every day.

Reasons for traffic congestion: Our town planners of the distant past might have thought they had the vision to keep the main roads of our lovely city wide enough to take on traffic comfortably in any future decade. What they probably did not take into consideration, perhaps, could be the present economic progress and technological advancement that accelerated production of vehicles nation-wide.

The entry of multi-national giants in the four-wheeler manufacturing scenario in India, the stiff completion given by the local biggies in the field like the Mahindras and the Tatas, with no policy of fixing a ceiling on production of their models in a calendar year, made car population explode in India. Administrative odds in expanding roads and streets due to legal clauses that building owners oppose land acquisition with, made the situation worse. Road sizes remain the same, more or less, while men behind the wheel multiplied in geometrical proportions.

Dream vehicle of each: In 1978, when I was doing an MA course in English Literature at JNU, Imphal Branch, Canchipur, the majority of us gawky lads of country-origin, managed with bicycles. My Donbosco, Imphal, class-fellow, Brother Yambem Laba of Manipur Mountaineering Club fame, called bicycles, 'poor man's Volkswagen,' in one of his articles. Few Univ students from affluent families, of those days, once in a while, flaunted a Fiat car in commuting with an occasional splash to campus.

We lesser guys were compelled to rubber-neck at the motor-car-dropped friends with undeniable awe. Even students who attended class with two wheelers were looked up to with envy. Every Master Degree hopeful had an untold dream to own a four-wheeler, some day. Today, with thanks to the economic boom, and the increase in purchasing capacity, job opportunities offered by Government, private firms and the coming-of-age of entrepreneurship, almost every citizen in Manipur, is in striking reach to buy a new car, through loan, 'marup,' or whatever. This factor also accounts for the 'shrinking' of road size in one's imagination.

Squabbles below Uripok-BT Road Axis: Right below Imphal's lone flyover at Uripok junction, traffic policemen manually direct the flow of endless motor run. If a commuter coming from Nagamapal side, who is in a hurry, wants to turn right towards Uripok-DC office road, he has to make a detour via a part of BT road, turn right to exit on the Kwairamband-Wanghei Leikai bridge and catch up with others on his destination route.

Human nature being what it is, commuters, often cut corner at the narrow passage between the flyover pillar and the steel barricade that divides the road at the axis point. Audible hisses of resenting voices are heard below the bridge among riders from all sides. If a bureaucrat or a VIP is given the preferential leeway, other commuters who are on equally urgent pursuits, are quick to let loose a rabble-rousing rebuke at the 'poor' traffic policeman who is in a 'can't help' type dilemma, for no fault of his.

The delinked link road to Lamphelpat: More and more citizens travel towards Lamphel and Langol. For one, the sick heads for the localities for treatment in RIMS, Imphal Hospital, the various Clinics, and Shija Hospital. The under-construction tunnel on RIMS road redirects those in the know to take Uripok street and turn right at the Langol View Clinic point. Office-goers and staff residing at NGV and Langol Housing Complex, also, make the said road a daily thoroughfare.

What's not fair to riders behind the wheel is the prolonged water-logging on the busy route. When parts of a car or a scooter gives trouble, due to watery effect, garage owner's may keep a calculated silence, but the riders become poorer by a few hundred or thousand rupees. Moreover, the zig-zag nightmare one faces while desiring to take the short-cut road from DC office to another end of Lamphelpat near RIMS' morgue or MTDC office, is a harrowing experience.

The erstwhile link road that ran parallel to RIMS fencing seems to have been delinked. Now, the said route passes through gated residential quarters that have no road-signs to indicate direction. There is an urgent need to erect road and lane indicators pointing colonies in that confusingly baffling area.

All are not gloomy: One must thank the initiatives taken up by MAHUD to beautify our State Capital and facilitate locals and visitors in varied areas. Kangla Park has been decked up to look like "poor man's Marine Drive." MANIREDA and Power Department played their key roles well to light up our main streets and lanes at night. City Traffic Police worked hard that the regulations are not 'strangulated.'

The ambitious collaborated Sewerage project, when completed, stand to profitably recycle the urban wastes. Solid wastes got managed efficiently by private players. People are grateful to the new Government in power that speedily mended potholes and repaired arterial roads, both in the State Capital and the DHQs.

Exposed to a 10 day whirlwind tour to study the Bangkok and Singapore models of Town Planning and urban development, when I was serving as Joint Director, MAHUD and MUDA, I brought an illustrative book on Singapore's urban re-development details. When transferred, I handed over the masterpiece to the then Chief Town Planner, MAHUD. We can take a leaf out of that book to further spruce up our improving city.

Some facts about overseas road rules: To avoid yells and screams on State-way motor rubbery, now that we are a part of Asian Highway-1, we will do well to ponder over some road-rules applied abroad. If one is too lazy to clean and ride a dirty car in Russia, one is liable to fish out a fine up to 2000 Roubles. In cold-weathered Sweden, any commuter who turns off the head-light and not put it on for 24 hours, is fined, even in good weather.

Of curiosity-tickling interest are the unique driving norms in Macedonia and Japan. In the Greek city, if one is found drunk, one is debarred by the Law from sitting on the front seat. In Japan, being a sober passenger is not enough; if the driver is found drunk, the passenger too is liable to be booked under the law. May be, the Japs believe more in the old adage that "most accidents are caused by the 'nut' that holds the wheel."

Back to our land: God blessed Manipur. We are saved from having to endure the ordeal of extreme weather. The natural resources we are endowed with are likely to make Singaporeans go green with envy. Surrounded by saline sea water, Singap imports even drinking water through huge pipes from Malaysia and Indonesia. AH-1 will, some day, meander through our State. Good governance, of late, had bridged the gulf of chronic 'bones of contention' between brothers of the Hills and those of the Valley.

Let's excel and go global: Erratic power supply of the past had been reigned in. Pre-paid and post-paid power system installations have lit up our urban settlements and far-flung back-block villages of the State.

Internet connectivity brings access to the latest global advancements. Let us all pool in human resources and apply technological knowledge to make our towns and cities world class so that the proletariat may earn better, tourism may become an 'ism' and sojourners from near and far may say 'wah wah' and may desire to speak well of the 'Land of Jewels' and visit us 'bar bar.'

Lunminthang Haokip

* Lunminthang Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be contacted at ltphai1972(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 08 July, 2017.

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