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Goa’s Long Wait For Traffic Lights

While the state government has been speaking of adopting various measures to check the rising numbers of fatalities in road accidents, it has failed to install traffic signals, which could prevent rampant traffic violations that often cause accidents. The state has a few traffic signals to keep traffic under restraint. Every year on an average, 300 persons die in road accidents. Two years ago, some private firms had expressed interest in a composite project of installing traffic signals along with CCTV cameras at 53 locations throughout the state free of cost. But there was a rider attached to the proposal. The firms wanted to display advertisements in the slots of traffic signals to make up for the investments.  The police department sent this proposal to the home department which rejected the idea on the ground that as revenue generation was involved in the process the government could not give right to any private party to install any signals or any other device without inviting expression of interest to avoid litigation. The home department asked the police department to send a fresh proposal. And that is where the matter seems to have got stuck.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is also home minister, needs to personally intervene to unravel the bureaucratic tangle. Two years have passed by; the proposal for traffic signals is being passed round between the home and police departments. The few traffic lights that exist in the state are all thanks to the funding by private parties through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme. If the government does not have the money to install traffic signals throughout the state, it could talk to the corporate organisations to install a few traffic signals each under the CSR programme. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar could convene a meeting of top executives of the corporate organisations and make an appeal to them to do it. We are sure they will come forward to take up a few signals each in the interest of saving human lives.

Parrikar must see that the proposals submitted by the IT department to help the government provide safety and security to citizens and their assets also go through. One of the IT proposals is a statewide surveillance system to facilitate 24×7 scanning and monitoring of vehicular traffic and human movement. It will mean setting up of unmanned surveillance cameras along all major roads and at major junctions, public places and places of strategic importance. Under the plan, the data will be stored, monitored and analysed at a centralised control room. While the government gets the corporate organizations involved in the installation of traffic signals, it should make provision for funds to implement the projects of the IT department.  Together, the traffic signals and surveillance systems throughout the state will save lives not only from being lost in accidents but also in probable terror or criminal attacks.

One of the important reasons why traffic signals are needed throughout the state is the traffic department’s constant grumbling that they are understaffed. However, shortage of staff is only part of the problem. The major problem is the lack of professionalism among the traffic policemen. They are often found lacking in the effectiveness to control sneaking out or cross movements. It is also not uncommon to find them standing away from the cross-section under the shade of a tree or in a corner, indifferently watching or talking on cell phone or busy chatting between themselves. However, even if there were enough traffic policemen and there was enough professional commitment among them, the drivers of automobiles cannot be restrained throughout the state. The only way to restrain the drivers and force them to follow the traffic rules is to install signals at all key points throughout the state. Drivers might not respect traffic policemen but most of them do respect signals. One of the reasons is that they are afraid of their vehicles colliding with speeding vehicles moving across or in the opposite direction after getting green light in their line.

The vehicle population in Goa has been rising phenomenally. There are more than two automobiles in every household. To control the movements of tens of thousands of vehicles we do need traffic signals. Is not the safety of the people the government’s prime responsibility? Enough funds should be found at the earliest for the purpose. Certain projects – for example, the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium at Fatorda and the Inox theatre complex – were completed in record time because in both cases the government took extraordinary interest and allocated enough funds. We want to see similar zeal in setting up a robust traffic management and surveillance system.

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