Traffic police being driven to despair | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Traffic police being driven to despair

Lack of manpower, infrastructure and long working hours pose a big challenge for the ill-equipped traffic police to control the increasing chaos, reports Manoj Sharma.

delhi Updated: Jul 29, 2007 01:00 IST
Manoj Sharma

These are tough times for the Delhi traffic police, with Blueline buses snuffing out lives on the city’s roads with shocking regularity. They are facing flak for their failure to rein in the rogue buses and control the growing chaos on the city’s roads. But are the Delhi traffic police well-equipped to control 45 lakh vehicles and curb traffic violations? The answer, it seems, is no, if one goes by the manpower and infrastructure they have. They have a staff strength of about 4,000, of which 20 per cent are deployed for non-field duties at any given time. “Delhi has expanded and the number of vehicles too has increased exponentially over the last few years. We certainly need more people. The last time the staff strength was increased was in 1999,” says Qamar Ahmed, the city’s Traffic police chief.

Maxwell Pereira, Delhi’s former traffic police chief, says that traffic has never been a priority of the government. “During my time nothing was done about several proposals forwarded to the government regarding the upgrade and welfare of the Delhi traffic police. People do not understand what it takes to manage traffic in a city like Delhi, which has more than four million vehicles. The traffic police today work in stressful conditions, and they are blamed for everything that goes wrong on the city’s roads,” he says.

Lack of manpower has meant long working hours for most constables in the city’s 38 traffic circles. The concept of peak hour is no more relevant as the city’s roads are congested almost throughout the day. No wonder then traffic policemen seem to be a stressed-out lot. Every traffic constable this correspondent spoke to, despairingly talked of long, stressful working hours without any incentives. “We have to report for duty at our designated point in the circle at 7:30 in the morning and we leave the point at 10 p.m. Then we have to go to the circle office for giving the day’s statement. I come from a village near Rohtak, so I have no option but to sleep at the nearby police station where I get awful food in the mess,” says a constable in one of the East Delhi circles.

Another constable in a west Delhi circle has a similar tale to tell. “I sweat it out under the sun and inhale poisonous vehicular emissions for 16 hours a day. I am doing double duty everyday. I get Rs 9,000 per month as salary and am only entitled to a bicycle for conveyance. And I am the fall guy if something goes wrong on the roads,” he says. The Delhi traffic police have 2,560 constables and 570 head constables, most of whom have to work 15-16 hours a day. They play the most crucial role in enforcement of traffic rules. Qamar Ahmed, when asked about these grievances of the traffic constables, said several proposals regarding their welfare were pending with the government. “We try to ensure they are posted near their homes,” he added.

The Delhi traffic police also require better infrastructure. At present, they have only 36 surveillance cameras, (compare it with London’s 20,000 cameras), 100 simputers (palm-size mobile computers for issuing challans), 100 alchometers and 11 mobile interceptors (to track speeding vehicles). Most importantly, the Delhi traffic police have an online Area Traffic Control system at only 102 of 684 traffic junctions. This infrastructure is hardly enough for a city which sees 110 million violations of traffic rules every day, as brought out by a Institute of Road Traffic Education’s Center for Analysis & Research in Road Safety study in 2005. Of these 30 million violations happen due to faulty traffic engineering system. “We are expected to improve traffic conditions, though we have no authority in matters that impact traffic like land use, vehicle registration, issuing driving licence and development of roads,” says a traffic police official.