Constant Vigil, Not Drives Needed To Save Lives

Even as the state traffic police launched a ‘special’ drive to crack down on traffic violations several ministers have called upon politicians to desist from protecting traffic violators. Indeed, it was a common complaint of policemen that they could not act harshly against traffic violators because they immediately telephone their local MLA or someone in authority who calls a senior police officer to let him go without penalizing him. Will the MLAs really stop pressurizing police? Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has got the police into action on road safety, needs to ask senior police officials to ignore calls from ministers or MLAs for letting anyone go without paying penalties and assure them that he would not allow anyone to victimize any officer for doing that.

Drives such as the ongoing one have been carried out before. They have proven to be ineffective. Drives are a damning proof of the failure of the police and transport departments to establish the rule of law on the roads. We do not need drives. We need a campaign. We need a work culture. We need a commitment from the government that they will establish the rule of law on the roads. If you want to know the truth, the Chief Minister of Goa has never made road safety his top priority. There are hundreds of problems and complexities and excuses often cited by the bosses of police and transport departments for their inability to save lives on roads. If Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar gets personally involved in the solution to those problems and in the unraveling of those complexities, perhaps we can see a ray of hope. Otherwise, this drive will pass like other drives. The numbers of people dying and getting injured in accidents would continue to rise.

Constant vigil should be the mission. Even while the drive is on, there have been fatal accidents and collisions and hitting of bumpers. Even while the drive is on, drivers of cars, jeeps and motorcycles and scooters are breaking speed limits on the roads. The growing vehicle population coupled with the impatience among the younger generation to reach their destination in the shortest possible time has also contributed to increase in the number of accidents. Drivers use roads as if it is a state without any policemen. Policemen never stop or chase over-speeding vehicles. Action against unruly drivers should not a weekly or fortnightly affair; it should be continuous. Instead of a weekly or fortnightly drive, the police can assign teams to conduct surprise vigilance checks on particular roads to stop over-speeding and wrongly overtaking vehicles and penalize them on the spot. The only way lives can be saved is by establishing the presence of policemen; by instilling fear in the minds of drivers that they would be caught if they violate the rules.

The penalties must also be increased and must include cancellation of driving licence. With the punishment for cases being booked under the Motor Vehicle Act not being stringent enough the state police have now decided to register first information reports against the violators of the rules under Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code, which provides for enhanced punishment of fine and imprisonment which could extend up to six months. The fines need to be increased. The process of investigation and delivering justice in traffic cases needs to be speeded up by the police and transport departments. Today, violators ignore calls to appear in their cases and get away with that.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar should provide the police and transport departments with gadgets to check over-speeding, drunken driving and other violations.  Equipped with the gadgets, the policemen can record cases of rash and negligent driving and penalize the violators. Let the Parrikar government not allow any delay in tendering process by using its discretionary powers to facilitate faster acquisition of gadgets. The gadgets could be acquired from agencies empanelled with the central government departments, so as to avoid accusation of favouritism and wrongdoing. The departments concerned should put forth their requirements which the government should approve expeditiously. With accidents continuing unabated, the government should invest in higher technology to reduce their number. Radars and CCTV cameras should be installed along the major roads in the state, which will reduce burden on the traffic police officials and provide fool-proof evidence to proceed with violators, as also prevent any scope for manipulation. There is also serious need for training traffic policemen and instilling work culture in them. We have to use all these means, but at the end the success will lie in checks for violations becoming a matter of daily routine by the policemen, not a matter of drives.

Categories: Editorial
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