Some things remain the same, no matter who comes to power. One of these is the overall traffic mismanagement in the State and the Capital. Like so much else in the country, the people would endure it and somehow carry on, but the problem has taken on gigantic proportions, with precious lives being lost on a daily basis. It is pointless to even compile and present such a list, because there is almost nobody unaware of the problem on first hand basis.
Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries, DGPs and sundry others regularly issue ‘strict’ instructions on enforcing regulations every time there is a major accident in the hills, but nothing is done. How can it be, when under their very noses in Dehradun the dereliction of duty is at an extraordinary level! No wonder, the casualty rates in the valley match those of the harsh terrain of the hills. With such a low base to build on, to expect anything from the ‘special’ measures taken during the tourist and yatra season is too much. People have to somehow survive on their own.
Clearly, the departments concerned – primarily the Police – are overwhelmed by the task. In spite of all the directions issued by government, or the taunts from the media, they have not been able to get their act together. The onus lies on the general public to play its part, irrespective of whether the government is managing to do anything of consequence.
Societies across the world have somewhat differing approaches to dealing with traffic issues. While some are widening roads to deal with the demands of the burgeoning number of vehicles, others like Britain often deliberately narrow them at crucial points to ‘slow down’ the traffic. Most of the developed countries, however, depend a lot on the maturity of the general road user – focusing from the beginning on issuing licenses only to those who have been properly trained in all aspects of driving. As a result, they conform to the rules by themselves, without need for enforcement. Canada and the Scandinavian countries are a good example of well behaved road users. The police can then focus all their energies on the categories of law-breakers that will anyway push the envelope, from the criminals to rebellious adolescents. In India, unfortunately, it is the ‘pillar of society’ who violates the rules in the most aggressive way. One can see this in the manner the ‘official’ red-beaconed cars are driven.
The people of Dehradun, who so pride themselves in the depth and excellence of civil society in the city, should take the initiative in adopting better driving practices. To an extent, of course, this is already being done at many places, but for wont of specific knowledge on what is required, they still tend to aggravate the situation. If it was made clear to the fat-cats sitting in the Rs 20 lakh plus cars that they would actually get to their destination quicker and with greater ease if the rules are followed, nobody would then be creating a third and fourth lane every time the traffic gets backed up on EC Road.
Wise heads should get together in the occasional seminar and analyse Dehradun’s traffic patterns, as well as commuting behaviour, and identify the challenges. On this basis, they should evolve practices specific to the city which could actually make it possible to drive smoothly on the roads. Posters, pamphlets, appeals and banners ought to be prepared for every category of user on the basis of this understanding, and the message conveyed to the target groups. If the basics are repeatedly drilled into the psyche of the people, it will act as the greatest restraint to bad driving practices.
Instead of looking at the government for support on this, the initiative should be taken by groups like the Rotary and Lions Clubs, in the way the Pulse Polio programme has been pursued. One never knows whose precious life one may end up saving.