Print Edition - 2014-11-23 | Free the Words
Traffic police, a salute!
- Among the numerous reasons for our traffic problems, there’s one thing we can change today: our own behaviour
Nov 22, 2014-
Every day, while I drive to and from work, I have the same nightmare: What if the traffic police officers followed a work routine similar to that of other government employees? What would happen if the fine women managing traffic at Tripureshwor decided to take a long tea break? And what if the police officers at Gaushala chowk decided to register their attendance and then take their wives on a shopping spree? Traffic in Kathmandu would definitely come to a halt. Drivers would no doubt fight each other and all hell would break loose. This article, thus, is a salute to all the hardworking men and women who have been holding the most difficult job in our Capital city—managing road traffic.
In a hurry
Our traffic lights never work. The solar panels intended to power them have gathered dust. The drivers do not care. Everyone is in a hurry, even pedestrians. No one wants to wait. We have run out of patience—no one bothers to stop, look, and go; everyone just wants to just go, go, go. The traffic police continue to do their job with what little resources they have. And they seem to manage just fine. If only we civilians acted our part just as fine as them.
One of my colleagues once updated his Facebook status saying he was tired of Nepali people complaining. Pardon me, dear colleague, but I am about to do the same—complain. Once upon a time, there was a time when everyone drove stress-free in Kathmandu and dreaded nothing else other than the infamous. Well, Kalanki is history now—and the history of this infamous traffic jam has been successfully replicated in almost every junction inside Kathmandu city.
The blame game
Who is to blame here? Do we put the blame on the traffic signals that never function? Or on the banks whose loans made it possible to storm the roads for 99 percent of the four- and two-wheel owners? Or the increasing number of pedestrians waiting on each side of the roads? Or do we blame the widened roads?
Me, I blame myself. I hate my fellow drivers, be they public or private transport; I hate motorbike riders, and I equally hate pedestrians. I complain often—if I stopped, I would instead need to attend a few therapy sessions on anger management. I will not hesitate to rant and rave at anyone on the road if they happen to snub me, and I love myself for it. (But of course, I do that with my windows rolled up, as I do not want people to hear the degree of profanity I am capable of.)
Roads are bad. There are too many vehicles, pedestrians, bike riders, and too few traffic controllers. Ah, the poor traffic police. Theirs is the only job I would not want to take up even if I was racked with hunger. To deal with both air and sound pollution is a war in itself that our traffic police are brave enough to fight. The harsh rays of the sun have faded their uniforms. They look dirty, tired, and often irritated. Just imagine standing in the middle of thousands of honking vehicles, all on the verge of running into each other repeatedly.
Well, as I said before, I have decided to blame myself for the utter nuisance we create for ourselves in our roads. If only we were not in a hurry. If only we thought of letting the other vehicle pass before us, just for once. If only we did not park at our sole convenience, wreaking havoc on other drivers. If only we drove in our lanes. If only we acted in a civilised manner. If only we respected authority. If only we loved our country a little more.
Do your bit
Tomorrow, while you are on the road, do your bit. Relax, do not rush, but do not miss the traffic signal. I am sure there are many like us who want to do their bit but then get carried away—especially the little boys behind the wheels of microbuses. They are rogues, I tell you. But that’s all they know, they didn’t need to learn the basics to be a driver. All they had to do was accelerate, manoeuvre, and hit the brakes. Eureka, everyone can drive.
Yes, if only the traffic department decided to spend wisely and strategically. Many roads would be better off if they were one-way streets. If only the traffic signals functioned routinely. And, well, if only we—the drivers—respected the situation and took control of it. So next time when you decide to argue with the traffic police or hit the gas until you emerge a winner, remember that traffic police are humans too. Remember they are on the road 24/7, come Dashain or Tihar, rain or shine. They do not get long lunch breaks neither can they fake attendance. Try and be a little civilised if you can—it is completely okay to turn up a couple of minutes late.
Giri Bohara is Communications Coordinator at Save the Children
Published: 23-11-2014 09:39