New Delhi: India is emerging as a favoured destination for launching new models of cars. Its roads and highways are improving too, though not fast enough to cope with the pressure of swelling vehicles that continue to crowd its streets and jam every available parking space.
Murad Ali Baig, auto expert & columnist
But, believe it or not, India’s chaotic traffic can be controlled in just a matter of few weeks, without adding traffic cops or stepping up traffic police budgets. The police departments will however have to stop relying on just their own physical numbers and would benefit hugely from the cooperation of the public.
There are roughly 20 million users of mobile phones with cameras in India. They are all witness to dozens of traffic violations every single day.
If the traffic police in our major cities were to use their photographs as evidence to prosecute traffic violations, our traffic would almost immediately improve.
Police departments have used contract prosecution very successfully in many countries. The contract cranes, towing away wrongly parked cars, have been lauded for their ‘operations’ in Delhi for decades with the private crane owners getting one third of the fines on every arrest. They have succeeded in minimizing some of the violations in record time.
Similar steps have been taken by countries around the world. In the U.S. several jails have even been privatized and bounty hunters commissioned to find and arrest dangerous criminals.
Undoubtedly, this initiative is likely to find favour with the millions of mobile/ camera/ digital camera owners who would be only too happy to send pictures of drivers crossing red lights, driving against one- way roads, those who have shamelessly jumped lanes, parked wrongly, exhibited road rage or in cases where under age children have been spotted at the wheel, if all these ‘good samaritans’ were paid or given some sort of an incentive.
A clear photograph showing the offense with the offending car’s number would be all the evidence necessary for the police to issue a Rs.chalaan’ (fine). And if the camera owner could earn a fee of say Rs20 on say every picture, many camera owners would rush onto the streets to earn some extra income.
It would also be administratively easy to implement this plan given the reach of the Internet. Camera or mobile owners could email their pictures to designated police mailboxes to enable the powers that be to take suitable action against the offenders.
To be fast and effective, the city police departments could outsource the data processing to private BPO’s who could issue the Rs.chalaans’, collect the fines for the police and quickly pay those who brought the culprits to book. Such centres would be quite easy to set up and many entrepreneurs would very eagerly apply.
The traffic police departments are already effectively using photography with CCTV cameras and video cameras in Rs.interceptor’ jeeps but these are expensive and liable to breakdown.
The existence of such Rs.photo cops’ who could be lurking behind any hoarding, at very road crossing, highway or street corner would serve as a powerful deterrent. Effective enforcement of laws does not depend on severity of fines or the punishment but on the certainty in the minds of potential culprits who will be caught.
The same Indians who behave so badly in India and so well in Singapore and London behave as they do because that know that the law will get them. Normally delinquent drivers would hate the prospect of getting repeated Rs.chalaans’ and even worse the possibility of the repeated offences resulting in losing one’s driving licence.
Murad Ali Baig is one of India’s foremost auto experts. Feedback to his column can be sent at firstname.lastname@example.org