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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Mobile app doubles up as 'alert' on police barricades

Gagandeep Singh Gill, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, November 21, 2013
First Published: 16:48 IST(21/11/2013) | Last Updated: 16:54 IST(21/11/2013)

Tech-savvy youngsters are posing a new challenge to the Chandigarh traffic police. Of late, several 'groups' of youth flaunting their smart phones and latest listening gizmos have taken to exchanging messages via WhatsApp, thereby, forewarning their friends about the location of barricades put up to check 'drink and drive' by tipplers returning home after partying.

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This is how it goes: ring tone beeps "naka info". Then it explains, "Ok. It's 10 'o clock - cat and mouse show has begun on Chandigarh roads, avoid Sector 16-17 road on 17 side".

"Skip the road starting from PVR on the road of Sector 33-34 towards 33 side which leads to Mohali."
Sample these 'gems' too: "Beware! Take a detour, avoid road dividing Sectors 24-25 going towards Sector 38" or "in front of Pizza Hut in Sector 35" or "on Madhya Marg etc".

Such warnings and caution signals have transgressed the boundaries of the Tricity that enables the 'group' members to criss-cross the roads "safely" and avoid being ticketed. Normally a 'group' has 20 to 25 members and the maximum is 50.

This makes all friends happy that they won't be driving on the 'marked' roads. Acknowledgments for not being caught at a barricade are short and crisp: just a symbol of a 'smilie'. These 'smilies' help them dodge the traffic police. Given the composition of WhatsApp 'family', soon the location of barricades goes viral as the night advances.

In this virtual 'What's up versus WhatsApp' its cat and mouse game between the police and 'road Romeos'!

Senior superintendent of police (traffic) Manish Chaudhary sounds positive. "At least, the oublic is aware where all barricades have been put up. Our aim is to discourage and deter people from drunken driving syndrome, which endangers their and others life." He was, however, discreet not to reveal if the police were taking help of the cyber wing to match up with WhatsApp users.

But what is the solution to the problem? People with smart phones take a detour to reach home and avoid barricades. People would not be scared of barricades knowing well that they could avoid such roads equipped as they are with prior information.

The Punjab and Haryana high court had frowned on police barricades put up to check only 'papers' and had enquired from the police under which motor vehicle law or rule or clause were such barricades put up; it had termed the nakas "illegal" for it tantamount to harassment of the public.

The Chandigarh traffic police, however, maintained that barricades in the city were meant only to check "drink and drive and over-speeding", the third category of nakas were in internal markets "on demand from market associations or senior citizen association" given the road rowdy ways and ruckus created by youth on two-wheelers. Equipped with the speed radars and alcoholic meters, police are ever ready to slap a challan.

WhatsApp users have their own justification about these 'alerts' on barricades. Chandigarh resident Aman Aulakh says: "It's very useful to avoid nakas by opting for safer route home." Others were a bit apprehensive to disclose the details.

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