Monday Musings: Kolkata could do it; why can’t Pune?
Unlike in Pune, Kolkata Police have ensured better traffic discipline, public spaces below flyovers have been used well and the pay-and-use public urinals and toilets are cleanpune Updated: Jan 14, 2018 22:28 IST
Unlike Pune, Kolkata Police have ensured better traffic discipline, public spaces below flyovers have been used well and the pay-and-use public urinals and toilets are clean
With all its challenges of a dirty, poverty-ridden megapolis, certain extraordinary changes seem to be taking place in the urbanscape of Kolkata. These changes ought to serve as a beacon of inspiration for other Indian cities, notably Pune, which is much smaller, more resourceful and relatively easier to manage.
Kolkata has better traffic discipline, greater creativity in the use of public spaces, especially under flyovers and the pay-and-use public urinals and toilets are clean, well-lit and well-maintained. Also, stiff parking fees have been introduced in the busiest of areas to reduce traffic flow and congestion. If Kolkata has shown perspicuity in implementing these measures, there’s no reason why other cities, especially Pune, should not do likewise.
Unlike in Pune, where motorists wantonly disobey traffic rules, show scant respect for the zebra crossing for pedestrians and take pleasure in jumping signals, things are quite the opposite in Kolkata. Driven by the fear of heavy fines and penalties for violating traffic rules, basic traffic discipline is, by and large, the order of the day. A recent visit to Kolkata revealed that the CCTV system deployed to catch violators has been working efficiently to such an extent that drivers are acutely aware that if they break the rules, the chances of a heavy fine are on the higher side. Very prudently, therefore, drivers respect the speed norms in the city, stay clear of the zebra crossings and there’s no question of breaking signals.
Things could have been similar in Pune, but the CCTV traffic monitoring system has failed to deter traffic violators. As reported extensively by this newspaper, the Pune Police does not have any system to recover the fines and penalties that are generated through the CCTV system. The Pune Police and the Pune Municipal Corporation need to take heed and follow Kolkata’s example in traffic management.
One of the most shameful aspects of Pune city is the complete neglect of public urinals by the PMC and the complete disregard to the needs of women on this score. Men on the streets prefer to urinate at any suitable spot in the open rather than use any of the stinking facilities of the PMC. The public urinal blocks have been constructed and left to their own fate, without any thought on their upkeep and maintenance. Thus, they are unhygienic, dark and dingy, poorly ventilated and often without any water. Such is their pitiable condition that city builder Sanjay Deshpande voluntarily adopted one public facility on Karve road, which he maintains now by paying for the cleaning staff.
In Kolkata, the pay-and-use facilities are neat and clean, well-lit by tubelights and manned by staff who ensure their proper maintenance. One such toilet block has been constructed below the flyover at Gadiahaat. Much of the space below this flyover has also been equipped with benches for people to sit comfortably while they wait between errands. Why is it so difficult for the PMC led by municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar, IAS, to ensure clean public urinals for the public?
Drivers in Kolkata also spoke of stiff parking fees, especially in the heavily crowded market areas, to encourage public transport and reduce congestion in these areas. For mid-sized vehicles, parking fees can go as high as ₹200 per hour, making it prohibitively expensive, which is precisely the way it should be.
Not everything is rosy red and there is the issue of blaring horns and speeding buses on the highways which is a national failing and a matter of concern.
I went to Kolkata as a tourist and what little I saw of civic planning and regulation was impressive. I wonder what tourists have to say when they visit Pune.
First Published: Jan 14, 2018 22:03 IST