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A Civilising Mission for Goa’s Drivers

Making over a dozen roads in Panaji one-way helped in reducing congestion and making driving smoother and walking easier for pedestrians. It was not only the city residents who benefitted from it but also visitors to the capital. With the success, the authorities have decided to make the one-way traffic management plan a permanent one. No doubt, the one-way traffic enforced by police and home guards helped in preventing congestion that was routinely seen on Panaji roads, but with the trials coming to an end on September 30, the situation has gone from bad to worse with many refusing to abide by the new traffic arrangements. The roads in Panaji were not planned for huge growth in population, in number of multi-storied buildings, vehicular traffic and the inflow of people from across Goa as well as outside the state. While a construction boom began in late 1970s in the city, no enforcement of rules for parking spaces was done. Builders did not care. People who lived in apartments and houses used public streets around residential and commercial properties for parking their vehicles. With roads and lanes both in residential as well as commercial areas lined on either side with automobiles, driving becomes unpleasant and it becomes even more unpleasant with drivers breaking traffic rules and speed limits to get past before everyone else.  And there is no scope for widening the roads.

The successful trial run of one-way traffic movement in Panaji has triggered demand from other cities and towns for similar arrangements. Considering the fact that other cities and towns are no better in terms of allowing residential and commercial properties to be built without adequate parking spaces, a disciplined one-way traffic movement is the most practical answer. However, at the same time, the rules must be enforced – or redrafted, if need be – to make it compulsory for commercial and residential buildings to provide for fairly adequate parking spaces, taking future additions of motor vehicles in view. A commercial building might provide for parking space in its plan but use it for some other purpose. There should be constant monitoring by the government authorities on how the parking spaces are being used. For enforcing the rules stringently the authorities need to put up signages at all places and parking spaces should be clearly marked. The authorities should also take note of growing numbers of vehicles used by owners to hire them out under rent-a-bike or rent a car scheme, which is unique to Goa. These vehicles continuously occupy a lot of parking space on Goan roads as the owners prefer to park them on roads.

Everybody can today buy a car or motorbike, but everybody is not civilised. Affluence is breeding hot-headedness not a cool temperament. The dominating style of driving today is intimidating, pushing and combative. There is a lot of wildness out there in the streets that only a civilising mission of the public  authorities can curb. There has to be a comprehensive traffic plan. Public authorities should hold regular dialogues with driving license holders. Efforts should also be made to inculcate self discipline and need for safe driving. Traffic signals must be installed throughout the state. There is also a need to appoint and deploy more traffic police persons. Road transport officials must frequently check vehicles for violations. CCTV cameras should be installed to catch and punish violators.  The government should provide high tech equipment to the law enforcing officials, the police and RTO, to track down the law breakers. Politicians and top officials should refrain from influencing the traffic law enforcing officials not to act against their supporters.

Though police personnel and at times road transport department officials are seen on the roads in enforcing traffic rules there have been complaints from automobile owners that these officials seldom are seen enforcing traffic discipline and more often use the opportunity to make a fast buck.  At times the problem of not enforcing the law get compounded with officials choosing to “ignore” traffic violations by motorists either owing to the offenders’ proximity to powers that be or the offenders being their acquaintances and relations.  Taking advantage of their closeness or direct or indirect connections to politicians and top officers automobile owners choose to ignore the rules and the law enforcers feel helpless and allow the violations.

Let the public authorities undertake their ‘civilising mission’ with full zeal and total non-partisanship. There are two components of this mission: One, the public authorities must be equipped with adequate funds, enough human resources and  latest technologies and must be allowed to exercise full independence to enforce rules for providing parking spaces, to set up traffic signals across the state and to slap penalties on violators of traffic rules. Two, they must become omnipresent to stop violators and instill fear of law in their minds. If the drivers are made civil and well-mannered the rate of human fatality and injury on the capital’s roads will also fall.

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