In a room at the Mumbai traffic police headquarters, a police constable in his late forties is struggling with an Excel sheet, trying to punch in the number of cases the department registered last month. On the road, a traffic constable deployed at a checkpoint to catch drunk drivers lowers his head into cars to sniff for alcohol in the driver’s breath. While accidents on Mumbai’s roads rise, the traffic police force remains ill-equipped, the personnel largely clueless of the modern technology that could be implemented.
The state of the force is such, at a time when the Mumbai traffic department is gearing up to implement the e-challan system – where police personnel will take a photo of the offender, key in his details and the details of the offence through a tablet. The Navi Mumbai police started following the system in August last year.
But whether the personnel will be able to use this technology remains to be seen. “The men will be trained,” said an officer curtly, when this was pointed out.
Further, for a vast city like Mumbai, the department is equipped with just nine speed guns to cover the length and breadth of the city, including major stretches such as SV Road, Link Road, Western Express Highway, Eastern Express Highway, Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road, Santacruz-Chembur Link Road and the newly-built Eastern Freeway.
“With only nine speed guns, the department cannot enforce speed limits any time soon,” said a police officer, requesting anonymity.
Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner of police, traffic, said, “We cannot put the speed guns to use, as the speed limits need to be recalibrated. At the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, the speed limit is 50 kph, but everyone travels at an average speed of 80-100 kph.”
Bharambe said once the speed limits are specifically calibrated with the devices, speed guns will be used.
The shortfall does not end there. To check drink driving, the traffic police has only 90 breath analysers.
An officer from the department said as many as 40 of them are either not functional or need repairs. “Of the 90 breathalysers, we have provided two devices to each of the 25 divisions,” Bharambe said. This means the force needs at least 50 more breath analysers.
To make up for the lack of equipment, the department gets its constables on the job. “At any regular routine drink driving check, constables sniff down the driver’s throat to check if they have consumed alcohol,” said Kartikeya Jain, working at a media outlet.
This issue recently came to the fore when model-turned-actor Aryan Vaid got into a scuffle with constables at Juhu, after he asked them to use fresh tubes to conduct the breath test.