More than 19 lakh cars and 15 lakh two wheelers ply on the city’s heavily congested roads everyday. Add to this 15,000 commercial vehicles and 13,000 buses, and it’s no wonder than traffic snarls and chaos is such an integral part of commuting in Mumbai.
“Mumbai has more registered vehicles and cars per kilometer than most cities in the world. The annual growth rate of vehicles is 9%,” said PP Temkar, senior inspector, Vakola traffic police chowky.
In the monsoon, which inevitably brings with it waterlogging, traffic snarls, tree falls and building collapses, the situation on the city roads becomes worse. Aggravating this is the shortage of staff in the traffic police, and unavailability of equipment.
Despite a sanctioned strength of 2,500 policemen, there are only 1,750 working policemen. Of these, at any given time, there are only 400 to 500 personnel catering to the entire city.
“Although we have 1,750 policemen on the ground, they work in three shifts a day. Making room for leaves and absences, during any shift, only 400 to 500 men are available. In the monsoon, this creates an issue because you require more people to man vulnerable spots and areas prone to waterlogging or accidents,” said an official from the traffic police department.
In their action plan for this monsoon, traffic police have identified 94 spots that can be used to park vehicles in emergencies.
However, this may not do much to ease the situation, because there aren't enough personnel to man these spots. “There is not enough staff to patrol the existing 7,000 parking zones in the city. Even if they make room for emergency parking areas, who is going to man them?” said an official from the traffic police department. Lack of equipment is another crippling factor for traffic policemen in emergencies.
“In case a tree falls on to a road, traffic police officials will need necessary equipment to cut it and remove it from the spot immediately, until a team from the civic body arrives at a spot, to avoid traffic congestion. However, we don’t have such equipment,” said the official.