The initial panic after the hike in penalties for violations of the Motor Vehicles Act has not just subsided, it seems to have disappeared altogether. This obviously defeats the preventive nature of the hike and reduces the law to a farce. Seeing the continued use of two- wheelers and cars by juveniles, the large number of persons going helmetless, the totally unnecessary deaths because of these violations, it becomes obvious that civil society has failed entirely to see the logic behind the law. It is ironic really that such a basic law and order issue goes unenforced while paeans of praise are heard about the quality of leadership in the police force.
In Dehradun, for instance, there is much talk about improving the traffic conditions, which by any standard are abysmal. The focus, however, is on the engineering aspect – rerouting roads, closing dividers or demolishing them – depending on the fad of the day. It is presently believed that enforcing one-way traffic in some parts of the city would ease the problem. However, even one glimpse of the way people drive shows clearly that the problem lies elsewhere – traffic discipline. If clear roads mean people will drive faster and more inconsiderately, the exercise serves no purpose at all.
Disciplined and intelligent driving, on the other hand, can make negotiating even the narrowest of roads an easy task. This will come from strict implementation of the rules. It is often stated that shortage of manpower makes enforcement difficult, but that is incorrect. Much of police work is psychological – people have to be made to believe that breaking the rules will invariably get them into trouble. What is the point of setting up control centres and CCTV cameras at great expense if there is no follow up action?
It is not necessary at all that violators be booked everywhere in the city. The police should regularly send out fair warning every now and then about its intention to carry out enforcement campaigns. Then it should select just one site everyday with adequate number of personnel and not let a single violator get away. If done on a daily basis in different parts of the city, even the bylanes, it will seem to the people that the police are everywhere. Hit by the higher penalties, habitual offenders will take no chances. Unfortunately, however, the police tend to go off to sleep on the issue for months and then wake up fitfully. Just setting up check-points at the same place and time everyday merely leads to people going around them. Police officers must have a stronger will and unshakeable commitment to the cause if they really want to make a difference.