Two weeks into the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway toll plaza crisis, things don’t seem to have changed much and the promised seven-minute journey now seems more a mirage than reality. Commuters are losing 15-45 minutes one way at the gate, but both the National Highways Authority (NHAI) and the operator seem busy counting the booty — more than Rs70 lakh is collected daily as toll fees, said news reports.
I worry that things might turn ugly — this morning, crossing into Gurgaon, I witnessed the usual…poor management, unconcerned staff. I also saw simmering anger with no police back-up — perhaps the making of a different crisis?
Conventional wisdom says communication should go into an overdrive during a crisis. But, the politicians disappeared quickly after the ribbon-cutting was over. Representatives of resident associations (read politicians-in-the-making) who had been mounting pressure for an early opening of the expressway and could, until recently, be seen posing for photo calls at mock openings of the expressway, have disappeared too. NHAI is silent, as is DS Constructions Ltd, the contractor and operator of the project, which hasn’t done much to salvage its already, much-damaged reputation.
There are a few basic measures that could have helped: Visible senior intervention from the government or the operator; advertisements/notices, advising the public about the situation and what’s being done to find a solution; effective, even if on-the-spot, training for staff manning the toll gates (not just clueless, they are also rude); suggestions and warnings to motorists for self-regulation; outreach to local media, particularly FM channels, many of which have vibrant listener-reporter traffic updates; and finally a website to inform/update and seek support/solutions.
I hope the government plans to intervene, and soon.
Meanwhile, the crisis offers an opportunity for companies to chip in. I firmly believe effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) has nothing to do with money, but with taking ownership. And any CSR initiative, which can deliver business impact, is naturally sustainable.
A “traffic brigade” is a simple idea — a traffic management intervention at the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway by various companies/organizations, including the multinationals, BPOs and KPOs, many of which have tens of thousands of staff that can contribute as little as an hour per week to generate several man years of volunteer work at the bottleneck point and help ease the situation.
Not all have to man traffic — though that is a prime need at present. Some can contribute by publishing collateral and literature. Others can manage pedestrian traffic. Companies can even offer pedestrians free rides to the nearest overbridge/underpass. The possibilities are endless. And accruals from time saved on travel might even make good the time spent on volunteer effort.
The activity is likely to have a viral effect, with more joining in when they see someone start. Some might find it rewarding enough to make this a part of their sustained community engagement programme. An enthusiastic CEO and team, managing the situation hands-on, donning their corporate colours (or a common traffic brigade logo), will make sense as they contribute to the community. Would someone care to actually do this? Let’s hope so. In fact, let’s hope such a traffic brigade doesn’t stop at just the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway or the NCR for that matter and travels far and wide.
So, see you at the toll plaza?
Rajesh Lalwani is a marketing communication professional based in New Delhi. He blogs at www.blogworks.in. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org