During Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal's visit to Amritsar on Sunday, there was a complete chaos on some of roads in the city with long jams due to traffic diversions which were made in a bid to keep clear the route his cavalcade passed through.
One such jam took place at the busy Novelty Chowk. Vehicles coming to a screeching halt on the stretch between Crystal Chowk to Novelty Chowk. Two traffic policemen deployed at Novelty Chowk stood in one corner and made no attempt to clear the traffic. Finally, two elderly persons got off their vehicles and began moving the traffic to the relief of those who had got stuck in the jam.
This is not an isolated incident. Such sights have become too common in almost every nook and corner of the city. One of the reasons behind this is due to construction work on the bus rapid transit system (BRTS) for creating dedicated corridors on which only local buses will ply on.
The BRTS project has undoubtedly hindered the smooth movement of vehicles in most parts of the city but equally responsible for the chaos on the roads is the traffic wing of the police. The wing lacks manpower as a result many parts of the city remain uncovered by the traffic police.
Additional deputy superintendent of police (ADCP traffic) Dhruman Nimbale said they need around 750 traffic cops to manage the traffic properly.
The current strength is 228 of which only 180 cops are on traffic duty during the day while the rest are stationed in various offices of the traffic wing.
"In Chandigarh, the traffic wing has 959 cops to manage the traffic. Here, we have just 180 cops on the roads. Therefore, it becomes difficult to manage the traffic which is increasing with each passing day," he said.
In such a scenario, traffic cops are not only overworked but tend to become lax during their duty hours. Instead of attending to traffic jams, it is a common sight to see traffic policemen just standing or chatting.
"When some VIP visits the city, the number of cops on normal traffic duty decreases as some of our staff is taken out for managing the VIP traffic," the ADPC said.
Putligarh Chowk is one place where cops can be often seen standing in corner and chatting among themselves, least concerned about the long line of vehicles piling up every minute on both sides of the traffic lights. They rarely move out of the corners to stop traffic light violators and challan them.
Occasionally, a cop may go and make a half-hearted attempt to clear the jam. The cop will wave and then go back. Similar scenes are common on Queen's Road and Crystal Chowk and at the busy Novelty Chowk.
Total chaos prevails all around the bus stand with vehicles bumping into each other right under the nose of traffic policemen stationed there. Even as local buses and three-wheelers halt whereever they like, the cops on duty do not challan any of them.
Nimbale, however, claims that they are very strict while dealing with traffic violations and nobody is spared. The average challan rate is 450-500 challans amounting to Rs 80,000 a day, he said.