Dehradun has for a long time now been widening its roads and crossings in the bid to incrementally deal with the burgeoning volume of traffic. Unfortunately, for lack of an effective initiative on enforcement of rules and education of commuters, the engineering is rapidly becoming nullified. The rank lack of discipline by all manner of road users, as well as the shameless and inconsiderate encroachment on the roads, has made the conditions even worse at several places. This raises the suspicion that the powers that be are only interested in that aspect of the problem that involves expenditure on civil works and not those where a sustained effort is required.
If all this is not contractor-driven, then about time the authorities pull together and enforce the necessary discipline that will keep the city’s streets clear of obstructions and jams. Available are punitive measures that should include ‘education’ sessions for transgressors. Much of the jams are taking place because of the bad driving etiquette of a very few – the kind who will not do lane-driving and form a line of their own on the wrong side of the road. They consider everybody else conforming to the rules idiots or unimportant people. Also, seriously lacking is consideration for others and simple anticipation that would prevent difficulties for everybody else.
To begin with, the police should get together with road users to identify the specific difficulties they face and also list the bad habits. These should then be incorporated into audio-visual presentations that show how these cause jams and what needs to be done to prevent them. There should also be simple tutorials developed on good driving habits for the specific problems faced by Doon’s drivers. Every person – driver, encroacher or pedestrian – should not only be ‘challaned’ but made to undergo the educational programmes. They should be given clean chits only when they pass written and practical tests devised for them. Since fines are not proving deterrent enough, it should be ensured that the transgressors are made to face the huge inconvenience of spending time in these educational programmes. As most of the habitual offenders already know the rules and are deliberately flouting them, the mere thought of having to face this embarrassment would straighten them out.
So that this does not become cause for protests of various kinds, the authorities should, first, make the preparations well beforehand and then publicise their intent before implementation. Nobody should be able to say they were caught unprepared. Also, the campaign should be a sustained one that commuters feel will not go away. Too often, the attempts made by the police to enforce discipline are impulsive, erratic and short-lived. The people have learned to endure them for a couple of days till they go away, as they are sure they will. Basically, in all things – be they high-profile crimes or everyday transgressions – the police have to be able to send the message that they are not going away, they are in it for the long haul. Merely by convincing law-breakers about their level of commitment is a big psychological victory that solves fifty percent of the problems through mere prevention.
Of course, Doon needs a lot of work done on it to become the kind of city the entire nation believes it to be through its reputation as the home of highly cerebral and cultured people. Order on the roads is an important part of that. Let’s make it the kind of place people would like to visit again and again.