Chaotic road traffic system of Manipur

Reimeingam Marchang *

Traffic condition in Imphal city sometime in August 2012
Traffic condition in Imphal city in August 2012 :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao

In Manipur the establishment of traffic police in the year 1970 with a total manpower of 40 personnel headed by sub-inspector was basically to regulate traffic as posted in the Manipur police website ( Later, after 47 years of traffic police establishment, on 20th June 2017 the Governor of Manipur establishes traffic police wing under Manipur police department with a total personnel of 118 headed by superintendent of police (SP) to control the traffic management of the whole state.

The state has a population of about 2.9 million in 2011 this simply means that one traffic police personnel manage more than 24,000 people in the state. The present traffic manpower is very much inadequate; therefore, it needs a drastic improvement for public safety and convenience. It compels to deploy non-traffic police personnel for traffic management.

As per the Manipur police website 885 cases were booked for various traffic offences made under the Motor Vehicles (MV) Act, 1988 in 1990 which has cumulated to 2.4 lakh cases on April 2017. For these cases a fine of Rs. 47349/- was collected in 1990 which has accumulated to slightly over rupees two crore as on April 2017.

This means that in an average Rs.86 per case was imposed and collected as fine for traffic rules violation. These figures are only accounted ones with proper receipt or challan. Undoubtedly, the unaccounted fines taken by police to release the violators must have been in multiple times.

As appeared in The Sangai Express on 14 February 2018 under the title "Traffic rule violators will be booked" the chief minister of Manipur made a vehement statement that "Majority of the people of the State have little respect for traffic rules and if they go on violating traffic rules, they must be booked and penalised and their licences must be seized" and "Government has been working to ensure strict adherence to traffic rules by raising the manpower of Traffic Police".

But to utmost surprise, it nullifies the evidences of Manipur traffic police that have penalised and collected huge fines for traffic rule violators. Indeed, the personnel have to be raised with the rising need as vehicle density increases and the flow of traffic is rapidly increasing.

There are many concerns about traffic, drivers, personnel, infrastructure, system and governance. The flow of traffic is haphazard and chaotic due to the careless drivers, walkers and traffic managers. Traffic moves mostly in zig-zag manner mainly in traffic points because individual priorities on reaching their destination rather than safety.

If traffic rule violators are to be penalised and booked then most of the offenders would be the government official vehicle drivers especially with the proudly displayed "flag post". What makes such drivers think that they can break traffic rules? Often such vehicles violate traffic rules.

Does traffic rule exempt for such driver or vehicle? Is there a separate traffic rule for government officers' vehicles? These really perplex the traffic situation in the state. Every law abiding citizens in the state must agree and have seen that flag post vehicles parking anywhere or overtaking rashly without giving any signal or horn.

It seems such rash drivers own the road! Of course many learned official who supposedly knows laws and rules of the land is travelling in such vehicle. If this is the case for the learned people then let's just imagine for other people.

It is also doubtful whether parking fee is free for flag post vehicle in any public parking space including airport. If such is the case then they are enjoying free parking at the cost of common people's fee. What an irony of governance?

In Manipur getting a driver's license without going through the various stages of learning to get permanent license appears to be a matter of past. It compromises lots of traffic rule knowledge and skill of driving. Nowadays, people are experiencing that RTO are stricter in issuing driving license. Many drivers in the state do not use proper turn or stop signals indicating the poor knowledge of driving.

Also many of them do not know which side to give way for traffic. Strangely, at times of accident bigger vehicles like car are made always wrong when collided with a smaller vehicle like bike even if the latter is completely drunk and wrong. The madness is that the blame is always solely given to the bigger vehicle.

Time to wake up! Instead of helping the victim, here is the bigger vehicle driver, by calling ambulance or police usually the passerby beat up the victim. These are factual for many cases and Manipur cannot deny it. The state needs to correct where it went wrong in the system.

Traffic police are meant to manage the traffic flow or ensure rule are followed but there are inadequate personnel to efficiently and effectively deliver the service. Why the state government is slow in improving traffic manpower? A state having only 118 traffic police personnel is a mockery to the traffic system and to the public safety and convenience.

The total number of traffic police in the state is more or less equivalent to the security escort of ten SPs. Officials who enjoy escort personnel hardly face a traffic hurdle. Ultimately, traffic rules and manpower in Manipur appears to be for common people and not for government official.

Witnesses and evidences are plenty in which traffic policemen removing the one-way road and barricade to government officials vehicle particularly flag post vehicle with security escort who are like the road-don to whom common man have a nightmare while on road.

The conventional traffic control by waving hand, that is not same to red or yellow or green light, is still common in the state. Traffic signal are almost absent at many important and heavy traffic junction. Traffic signs are hardly placed for the purpose of bringing to public notices any speed limits, diversion or hump.

CCTV cameras that are installed should be used as supplementary observers. Installing traffic signals at all major crossing would tremendously help in controlling a smooth flow of vehicular movement. What traffic rule violation the government was taking about when there are no proper traffic control infrastructure?

Is the rule about use of seat belt or helmet, rash driving, drunken driving, jumping lane, wrong parking or talking on mobile while driving? It is evident that most police and the so called VIP flag post tag vehicles driver's drives rashly risking many innocent lives.

There is no rule relaxation for them to drive rashly and fast at heavy traffic points or crowded place under MV Act, 1988. Traffic system and infrastructure should be first corrected and developed in order to implement the rules of the Act stringently for public safety and convenience.

* Reimeingam Marchang wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on February 23, 2018.

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