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Horn not OK please

In booming Mumbai, you can get away with blowing your own trumpet, but if you are caught blowing your own horn, you will have to cough up Rs 100, reports Megha Sood.
Hindustan Times | By Megha Sood, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 08, 2008 02:21 AM IST

In booming Mumbai, you can get away with blowing your own trumpet, but if you are caught blowing your own horn, you will have to cough up Rs 100.

With more than 1.5 million vehicles swarming Mumbai's rapidly gridlocking, anarchic roads, and 500 vehicles being added every day, the traffic police — after battling drink driving, rash driving, driving without helmets or seatbelts -- are trying to curb our tendency to keep a hand on the horn.

Various studies have showed that the decibel levels of Mumbai traffic are now louder than a jet plane taking off. The maximum permissible limit on any road is 80 decibels — it's 45 in silent zones and 55 in residential areas. But many autos are as loud as 85 decibels and the noise on our roads often exceeds 90 decibels, said Harish Baijal, Deputy Commissioner of Traffic police (suburbs).

The latest 'drive', as the police call it, against indiscriminate honking ended in fines for 6,295 drivers, most of whom were perplexed and indignant on being fined for something that comes as naturally as digging their nose or scratching their cheek.

“The mentality of drivers cannot change in a day but we have made a start to educate the masses of increasing noise pollution levels,” said Baijal.

Was the drive a success? “It is a good start,” said Baijal, part of a triumvirate of traffic police officers determined to bring change to Mumbai’s roads.

The enthusiastic public response to the drive indicated how irksome honking has become: Police officers on Monday were joined by more than 50 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and 2,000 volunteers.

Baijal said violators can be fined Rs 500 and their driving licences could be temporarily suspended if they do not pay the fine.

Three years ago the traffic police had submitted a report to the Central government stating that Mumbai is the third noisiest city in India. Only Delhi and Kolkata were noisier. Mumbai may have outstripped them by now.

“The traffic police contacted us and the volunteers had begun work by spreading the message in churches, schools and colleges,” said Sumaira Abdulali, founder of the NGO Awaaz Foundation.

“The joint commissioner of traffic police has said that he would step up the campaign and include the offence of honking in the environment protection act,” she said.

The traffic police hope that fines and awareness campaigns will make drivers aware that meaningless honking is wrong, much as they made Mumbai aware that drinking and driving are not acceptable.

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