‘Licensed’ drivers in Delhi run amok like a pack of scavenging hyenas. They trample on the rights of others, bare their fangs at anyone crossing their path and feel no remorse whatsoever for their actions.
In their psychotic view, traffic laws are an inconvenience.
They may not realise it, but their lawlessness works like slow poison. Consider this. A 10-kilometre drive in Delhi can take up to an hour, four times longer than it does in places with more civic sense. When cars stay on the road four times longer than they should, the environmental damage they cause multiplies by four. Simple logic.
Which is why the odd-even formula will never resuscitate Delhi. In the experience of many, the reduction in the number of cars by half has not cut driving time in equal measure. The 40-kilometre stretch from Noida to Gurgaon still takes in excess of two hours as unruly drivers continue to go unchecked. Crossing the one-kilometre Ashram stretch can take as long as 12 to 20 minutes as five/six/seven disorderly rows of cars, trucks, buses, auto-rickshaws and motorbikes jostle for space meant for three lanes. At several points along the way, the chaos caused by mindless drivers, coupled with unsynchronized traffic lights, brings traffic to its knees.
The government must realise that the odd-even formula treats only the symptom, not the disease. The disease is a deep-rooted psychological disorder that seems to afflict every driver in Delhi. Only the bitter pills of law enforcement can treat the chronic problem.
To bring sanity back into the traffic equation, serial offenders must be driven off the streets forthwith. That should be the government’s first objective.
For 60-odd years, each successive government has let things slide. Not one has applied its mind or resources to the task of traffic management.
The job of any government, whether AAP or the BJP, is to create fluent, obstacle-free driving conditions so that traffic can flow at speeds up to forty kilometers an hour. For this magic to happen, three things are an absolute must. One: strict, consistent law enforcement, instead of tokenism. Two: a licensing authority that applies prescribed standards when handing over a license to a rookie driver. And three: proper maintenance of roads.
No government has managed to get the entire traffic management machinery working together, in concert.
The absence of proper policing for sixty-odd years has handed Delhi’s growing band of rowdy drivers the license to break every traffic rule in the book. More and more people drive in between lanes, sneak through red lights, double-park, go against the grain of traffic on one-way streets, choke roundabouts, climb on to pavements and spread anarchy in their relentless effort to outwit and overtake each other.
Politicians are among the most frequent traffic violators. Camouflaged by a party flag, a flashing light and a screeching siren, their turbo-charged SUVs bull doze through lanes and red lights with psychopathic irreverence. When they get away with it, they don’t just set a poor social example: they also erode the moral right of the police to take appropriate action against others who cross the line.
Look around you. Traffic violations take place every second of the day on every yard of the road. Given this appalling statistic, the Delhi Police are letting slip the golden opportunity of becoming the richest police force in the world. Their task is right up their street: Just fine each violator in accordance with the law. Simply by discharging their duty, the traffic police could theoretically extract a lakh of rupees a minute from every yard of every road. Even if they manage one-tenth that, it would still work out to be a mind-boggling sum each day.
The rising revenues of the police could then be used to upgrade their manpower, beef up salaries, reward competence, stifle the practice of taking bribes, install systems to catch offenders, air-condition and modernize police stations and still have millions left over to swell the coffers of both the central and state exchequer. All paid for by traffic violators.
The by-product would be a safer, cleaner, greener Delhi. Free of chronic offenders, accident rates would plummet and traffic would flow in fourth and fifth gear, as it should. Noise and air pollution would fall to acceptable levels because cars, trucks, buses, auto-rickshaws and bikes would fly to their destinations. The addition of Euro VI norms would further reduce toxic emissions.
It’s clear from various reports that the odd-even formula has had limited effect on both congestion and air quality. The time has come to explore another, more lasting, solution: Tough policing measures that will accelerate flow of traffic. If a ten-kilometer drive can be reduced from 60 minutes to 15, emissions will automatically fall by 75%.
The state and central government should work together to make this happen. Both would profit. So would Delhi.
(Ajai Pasricha is a communications consultant and an advertising professional of 36 years standing. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are personal.)