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Horn not OK please for traffic cops in Mumbai

The constant exposure to noise pollution has taken a physical toll on the city’s traffic cops

mumbai Updated: Apr 20, 2017 11:12 IST
Farhan Shaikh
As Mumbaiites, we have become masters of tuning out that which is practically ubiquitous out of sheer necessity.
As Mumbaiites, we have become masters of tuning out that which is practically ubiquitous out of sheer necessity.(HT)

Amid the cacophony over the use of loudspeakers for the morning azan (Muslim call to prayer) sparked by a tweet by singer Sonu Nigam, Mumbai’s most pervasive source of noise pollution – unnecessary honking – is being drowned out.

As Mumbaiites, we have become masters of tuning out that which is practically ubiquitous out of sheer necessity. And while many of us – Nigam included – have the luxury of spending the majority of our days ensconced in air-conditioned comfort, whether at work or at home, this is not a privilege accorded to countless Mumbaiites, least of all traffic police, whose jobs require them to stand at busy junctions for hours, enduring incessant and often unnecessary honking. The toll this can take far exceeds the fleeting jolt of irritation or anger that you may have experienced from brief exposure to loud or incessant honking or, as in Nigam’s case, an unwelcome wake-up call.

In 2016, the police registered a record 13,883 cases and imposed 816 penalties for various honking-related violations such as the use of pressure horns, musical horns and ‘reverse horns’. The Central Pollution Control Board named Mumbai the noisiest city in India in a study last year.

Cracking down to violators has done little to deter those who insist on using horns without thought or consideration, according to constables who have spent countless hours manning junctions and paid for it with their health.

Sadam Beldar, senior inspector with the Nagpada traffic division, says it is struggle to find even a moment of peace. Even as he spoke to Hindustan Times over the phone, the familiar cacophony of a typically busy traffic junction was came through loud and clear.

“The biggest problem is peak hours,” Beldar said, “People honk unnecessarily. A horn is meant to alert other motorists, not to tell them to let you go ahead. But in Mumbai, people honk as soon as the light turns green.”

For some, the constant expose has taken a physical toll. A 32-year-old constable posted at Mohammed Ali Road said, “There is a ringing sensation in my ears even after I leave the junction. I cannot hear my wife when she calls me from the other room.”

A constable with the Worli traffic division, said, “It is the bikers who honk the most while they zigzag their way through stationary traffic.”

Another constable, formerly with the Vakola traffic division, now works out of Versova police station. “This is better than trying to manage traffic,” he said, asking not to be named.

Dr Dinesh Mohan, professor at Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi and a member of the Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme (TRIPP), said, “Prolonged exposure to honking reduces concentration and is also associated with hearing and blood pressure problems. There is no reason for people to honk so much. The only way to reduce this is to have regular enforcement.”

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