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Traffic Troubles in Town

Why traffic in our city is in such a mess and what can be done about it.

Dr Nitin Pandey


Traffic in Dehra Dun can be compared to the Wild West, where might is right, rules are meant to be broken and there is utter chaos. Big leaders of the State feel that they have done their job by issuing “strict instructions” to the police department to tidy up matters, the police high ups hold meetings with their officers and again “issue strict” instructions but on the ground nothing changes and nothing will ever change until the problem is addressed in a comprehensive manner.

Traffic chaos in Dehra Dun
Nagar Nigam truck coming on the wrong side of a one way road around Parade Ground

Lack of fear of breaking the law, chaotic development of the city and political interference are the three biggest reasons for the mess. With around 100 traffic constables manning a city of 10 lakh population, manning even important crossings is literally impossible. Even the arterial roads are not monitored by the police, leave alone the smaller roads. While it is true that home guard constables help the traffic policemen, yet because they have no powers other than to take defaulters to the nearest police station ( which entails leaving their post unattended) rarely anyone takes notice of them. With “My uncle is a minister” being the favorite line of many Doonites, even traffic police officers get easily browbeaten. Such is the contempt of traffic police that orders to stop are more often than not ignored. And those who are unfortunate enough to get caught, laugh all the way to the Police Office to pay a fine of Rs 100/-. Also, it is a common sight to see official government breaking traffic rules at will, going on the wrong side of one ways, creating more mess by trying to barging through traffic jams and blowing their horn every minute. Half the Surveillance Cameras fitted in important crossings are “gone for service” at any point of time, there is only one constable sitting and monitoring the rest and the cameras do not work at night.

Opening in road dividers every 100 meters along Rajpur & Chakrata Road and consequent free U Turn makes life miserable for motorists. Political pressure prevents the police from closing these openings as well as literally forcing them to withdraw traffic flow regulations which are designed to smoothen the traffic flow. Also blocking traffic are handcarts, vehicles coming on the wrong side and parked at will, sometimes almost in the middle of the road. Roadside mechanics, roadside food handcarts, roadside food stalls lead to scooters & cars being parked on the road causing traffic obstruction. Who is responsible for this is anyone’s guess, with agencies passing the buck to each other. Compound this with total absence of official parking stands leading to chaotic parking on the road and the mess becomes clear.

The solution is to atleast double the strength of police constables, raise the minimum fine to at least Rs 1000/-, authorize the home guards to issue challans for traffic violations, have motorcycle borne traffic policemen who patrol the main roads and catch people fleeing after being told to stop and taking them to court, resisting political interference at all levels and ensuring all crossings have working surveillance cameras and clearly marked stop lines. All public and government vehicles must have a number written boldly on the rear side, whom to contact if the driver is breaking traffic rules. Better quality night vision cameras are a must & should also be placed on one way roads to catch people driving the wrong way. Besides the fine, traffic violators must be made to attend traffic classes compulsorily. SP Traffic Ajay Joshi feels that the multitude of agencies involved in the city, makes it difficult to things to work out. “MDDA, Nagar Nigam and the Police Department are all involved in maintaining crossings and traffic lights and since there is no one single authority over all of them, getting work done is difficult” he says. According to Mr Chander Narang, a renowned Doon architect, unless space for parking is created, the traffic situation cannot improve. He recalls a parking project next to the Railway Station, which was to cater for Arhat Bazaar, stalled due to lack of political will. He also feels that since road side parking cannot be totally stopped, it is better to regulate it and ensure cars are properly parked without obstructing the traffic. Chaotic “development” of city is another major cause of traffic snarls. With shops, complexes and offices coming up in every residential locality, mostly illegally after getting sanction for a residential map, a large volume of traffic is squeezed into narrow roads causing havoc. The inability of MDDA to control this and the “convenient” system of “compounding” illegal constructions have literally compounded the problem.

Discouraging people from taking out their vehicles is an important step in controlling the traffic. Unfortunately, there is simply on place on the roads to walk. The footpaths are broken, unkempt and occupied by shopkeepers forcing the pedestrians to walk on the road, exposing themselves to danger of being knocked down by the traffic and obstructing the traffic in return. Again, more than symbolic drives to remove encroachments from the footpaths, no one has done anything to make the footpaths usable. Cycling would have been a good alternative to driving cars, especially for short distances, but absence of cycling paths and the chaotic traffic makes cycling dangerous to life and limb. Here to, even as the government never tires of advising people to keep the cars at home, it fails to provide them with an alternative, making it obvious to everyone that the advice was purely theatrical in nature and not to be taken seriously.

Total absence of a good public transport system is another reason why people are forced to take out cars. Since Doon’s roads are narrow, 65 seater busses occupy most of the road and block traffic. They must be replaced by smaller 35 seater buses. Also since buses are invariably overcrowded, luxury air conditioned small vans plying at very frequent interval, across the entire city could be used to lure the car driving class. This would not only generate employment but provide incentive to people for leaving their cars behind. According to experts in railway matters, monorail is a viable option for a city like Dehra Dun and must be explored.

Until sustained and decisive action is taken, traffic in Doon will continue to worsen. The sad part is that there is no one at present who seems to be interested in finding long term solutions to the problem. Issuing “strict” instructions is not really going to solve much.

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