TODAY -

What does civility require, a BA, an Engineer or just principle

SK Singh *



The other day I happened to be at the Keisampat traffic junction. As is the normal these days traffic points are often jammed with all kinds of vehicles on the move. The red light was on for the Keisamthong-- Wahengleikai road so there was near standstill except for the other line. I was too stuck but for the wrong reason.

I was to reach airport and having come from Keisamthong side I could turn left as the line from Paona bazaar international market to airport road was on. From around Keisamthong I took the left lane so I could proceed freely even at the crossing.

Things were different however. One car was blocking my way. He was proceeding straight towards Wahengleikai and was parking at the very left corner. Normally, the left lane is left open for commuters to turn left. Ideally he should take the other lane, first or even second if we recall that we hardly follow any lane.

I thought I could remind him by way of, at the least, blow a faint horn to alert him if he was blocking all cars turning left, airport or not, may be Takhel leikai, Kwakeithel etc. No response, no concern; he remained still. Having no alternative, I honked one or two short shots. I succeeded, he was alerted.

Rather than give way, he got off the car, approached me at a menacing gait. Looking stern at me he nearly shouted, “Too impatient, can’t you wait for the line to clear”. He also added, “I am an engineer and going to Waheng leikai”.

My explanation that I was preceding to airport and that turning left was in order, that he was on the wrong lane blocking others eligible to go ahead could not sensitize him. He rather than apologize, scolded me, quoted his educational qualification as an engineer and I had to absorb his hard look plush the abuse for no fault of mine.

What has his engineering degree to do with in the instant situation? For that matter, where is the need for any educational qualification in cases like this where there is need only for abundant civic sense. Being engineer himself, perhaps he should be more aware of road manners, commute etiquette more than people like me. That didn’t happen.

Is this scenario in order at this time of modernity, advancement in traffic sense, when we talk about ‘smart city’ and all those more modernized ways of living in city? Is this engineer worth his salt? Or shall we blame the government for not marking lanes, very visible ones displaying turns at corners like in big cities?

But why blame the government all the time for our own poverty in knowledge, better still, our own lack of civility and decency? One thing is however certain. There is urgent need for the commuters to learn, behave in public spaces.

Another area of concern in our roads is the menace of ‘overtaking’. More often than not, commuters mostly the classy type, young smartly dressed on the wheels of fancy cars or bikes honk at the slightest hindrance, that too vigorously, for not allowing their cars to overtake.

The urge for overtaking is understandable; they may be in hurry, a medical situation, or an appointment and the like, you give any reason. That is accepted. That is understandable. The next area is, is the car in front suitably placed for taking sides for the approaching car to pass by at the instant moment?

Are there not any other vehicles for him turn left easily? Even where such space is available, he may take some time to maneuver, not just as fast as the man on the wheels fancies. The consequence could be more honking, long, irritating and to the extent of being annoying.

In other countries, on the highways, there are earmarked spaces for commuters to overtake, not just anywhere or anytime. The road sign says, “Overtaking point one kilometer away or the like..”. Commuters have to wait for the point following others in line without any noise, any horn any display of nasty glare.

Of course, we cannot be like them given the circumstances we are in, more importantly the civility we possess. Decency, manners and such attributes are no more in our dictionary once we are out of our houses; why houses? Even there, such attributes are rarest of the rare these modern days.

I sometimes muse about deputing some select boys and girls from again select youth clubs to states like Mizoram or Sikkim where they see for themselves how the commuters behave on the roads. The MAHUD department or the Municipalities might like to consider if some of our youths, CSOs and the like, a group of 6 youths, be deputed to Gangtok or Aijwal on a week’s program to learn, oversee how traffic moves smoothly, in the narrow lanes and roads of these states, without overtaking, honking or giving lectures on commuters.

They could see how traffic lights are complied with, followed without any police man or a couple of them controlling even when the lights were working. Imagine the plight of these police man whose services are needed elsewhere.

Could there be some such program where like short term training courses in administration, some exposure, some experience is gained for replication back home. They may on return form groups to share experience with other youth/local clubs and spread the modalities for initiation in some sectors of Imphal.

Together, these Youth Clubs can arrange mass awareness program on the roads, some select, for the message to be put in the system. A spread effect can be created. Civic bodies, Municipalities, even transport, traffic police etc who are stake holders can be associated with for an initial breakthrough. The rest will be smooth. The beginning is tough.

More bad news is lying in wait. The traffic problem would be more on the rise. As vehicle registration multiplies so will the latent problems. Conservative estimates indicate that around 35000 to 37000 vehicles are added yearly. This is to the existing lot of 4.5 lakh vehicles on the road.

In the absence of any such direct approach, things as are now would continue often to the inconvenience of all the commuters. Perhaps the chaos would multiply many fold and Imphal would turn out to be role model city with total pandemonium, total disarray.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 23 2020.



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