With the festive season kicking in, most college students are looking forward to taking a break from lectures. However, some of their classmates will step out on the streets wearing fluorescent green jackets, standing at traffic junctions and near Ganpati Pandals, guiding vehicles and directing queues of devotees. These are National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers from city colleges, who assist the city police in ensuring smooth flow of traffic and people during festivals.
Road traffic in Mumbai is in a perennial mess but the festival season brings chaos to the city’s streets. As the traffic police struggle with a shortage of personnel, the students lend a helping hand. Police are training students in traffic safety and management. “During the festive season, managing traffic becomes a task for our limited force. We have been seeking the help of college students, but the initiative was expanded under the new commissioner of police,” said Sunil Paraskar, additional commissioner of police (traffic).
Students started their voluntary service with the festival of dahi handi last week. On Thursday, around 20 students from Vivekananda Education Society’s Institute in Technology in Chembur, spread themselves across different parts of Chembur to ensure that the festivities did not inconvenience residents. “Recognising the need for citizen participation in assisting the police to ensure maintenance of decorum and reduce instances of unruly behaviour, a local self-help group approached us with a proposal to assist the police just a day before the festival. We immediately agreed to help the police and ensure the smooth passage of the festival, “stated Kaustubh Dhake, Secretary, VESIT social responsibility team cell.
In September, as the city brims with the euphoria of its largest, loudest and the most chaotic festival - Ganeshotsav - students from MD College, Parel, will be manning the busy traffic junction in Dadar and controlling the crowd at the city’s most popular Ganpati mandal - Lalbaugcha Raja.
The same month, when pilgrims and revellers will throng Bandra for the annual Mount Mary fair, the city police will rely on the enthusiasm and dedication of students from Rizvi College, Bandra to manage traffic in the western suburbs. “It’s a fun activity for the students,” said Paul Raja, NSS coordinator of the college.
The police and colleges said that the activity also helps students inculcate respect for law and the job done by police personnel. “When the students start implementing the law, they also start obeying it,” said Raja. “People have to be involved when it comes to avoiding disasters during festivals. The police alone can’t do it,” said Satish Kolte, NSS coordinator, KC College. He added that the college is planning to train around 250 students from four South Mumbai colleges in traffic safety, with the help of police and Traffic Training Institute in Byculla.