The debate on citizens helping traffic police

Praveen Sood, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) talked recently about effective traffic management.

Given that only about 1% of the total traffic violations are actually ever fined and the traffic police department is just 2500 strong, what is the way forward?

Sood has mentioned (The Hindu, January 31) how about 40% of road space is taken up by parking mostly unauthorised. Earlier at the Jayanagar meeting, Sood talked about active Residents’ Welfare Associations can replicate the Brigade Road parking model and charge vehicles for parking. They can also help prevent illegal parking – Clamps, he said, can be bought by the associations and used to lock vehicles parked illegally and guards appointed for the job.

The Outer Ring Road Companies Association (ORRCA) tried this approach precisely.  At one of their regular meetings with the Madiwala traffic police on traffic issues on Outer Ring Road, late November last year, this was initiated. Vehicles parked on the Outer Ring Road, in the No-parking zones, cause a lot of problems. The road is already in chaos due to flyover construction happening at Iblur, Kadubeesanahalli and Devarabeesanahalli, all in a stretch of a few kilometres.

Given the police officials were busy with managing smooth flow of traffic, they requested assistance from ORRCA. So ORRCA took the responsibility of locking the front wheel of vehicles (primarily cabs servicing ORRCA member companies) violating parking norms. ORRCA secretary S Viswanath explained how it will work. "The offender has to go to the nearest police inspector/station and pay the fine.  On showing the receipt of penalty, an ORRCA representative will open the lock.  ORRCA will not collect the penalty."

Bangalore Mirror in its article, accused the Traffic Police of outsourcing their responsibility, saying ORRCA was locking all vehicles and collecting the fines.

Viswanath clarifies they had not locked any vehicle yet. The picture that appeared in the tabloid was of ORRCA employee Kulkani demonstrating to the reporter, how the clamp works. 
Sood responded in his letter (BM, January 14th): ‘Don’t hang the heroes’.

He wrote: "But is it too much to regulate even own members around one’s campus? What else is “community participation" all about? ORRCA regulates its own members in its own neighbourhood. The entire volume of traffic on the Ring Road is plying on service roads. Without strict one way and no parking regulations it is impossible for employees to even reach their destinations. One vehicle parked wrongly or one vehicle violating the one way rule is capable of causing a jam for hours. Instead of recognising their contribution, condemning them is like suspecting the wisdom of 30,000 employees of this conglomerate…"

Mirror retorted, "It is a thin line that separates empowerment and abdication of responsibility". They insist, "ORRCA’s security guards cannot use a clamp on a wrongly parked vehicle or put up a violation sticker on its windscreen. That is simply and wholly the traffic police’s job."

They ended with saying, "Bangalore has a tradition of community participation that knows its bounds and, for that reason, has proved invaluable in solving specific problems. BATF and ABIDE are two examples."

BATF and ABIDe being community initiatives is a debatable point, but leaving that aside, this controversy has ensured no headway has been made in tackling the illegal parking problem on the Outer Ring Road.