The month old Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Conrad Kongkal Sangma is burning the midnight oil since it formed the six party coalition government, be it for the ongoing Budget Session 2018 or mobilizing Central funding for the crash crunched state. Conrad’s cabinet is racing against time to fulfil the mandate of changing Meghalaya and is being lenient to pressure groups, making sure the government is accessible to all sections of the society.
Besides hearing out the pressure groups on the issues of Inner Line Permit to the Education Policy and Mining Policy the Ruling Government was quick to summon the State Police Department to trash out the chronic issues of traffic congestion in the state, while the Shillong Traffic Police personnel are presently cracking down on modified vehicles in keeping with an order passed by the Superintendent of Police (SP), (Traffic), East Khasi Hills (EKH) District, BJ Laloo. As per the official order, all traffic branches are to detain or compound vehicles including two wheelers which are using LED light bars or other white lights, modified exhaust and silencer pipes or modified pipe mufflers which create a loud noise and which are not original fitments.
Also on day one of the MDA government- March 7, 2018, there was an exercise carried out by Shillong Traffic Police from Barik point towards Rhino point as an attempted streamlining of the three lane flow of traffic, making a smooth flow of traffic, but it was never implemented even for the ongoing Assembly Session. Traffic jam at this particular point had even blocked the flow of Ambulances, due to the zig zag pattern plying of all sized vehicles choking the stretch of the road.
If the MDA government is serious on easing the traffic congestion in the city in particular and the state in general, this especially needs to be done during the peak hours, that is the school hours in the city. Also the regulation of the vehicular flow needs to be more stringent, particularly the two and four lane system, overtaking and enforcement of traffic culture, particularly the parking along the main roads and bye-lanes. The banks should be instructed by the government to first ensure that people seeking car loans actually have the space to park them before sanctioning these loans; this will really help ease traffic congestion in the city.
While people the world over are advocating for walkathons and marathons mainly to revive the culture of walking, the luxury of motor-vehicles has enslaved the present day generation even for the shortest distance. Shillong, the state capital of Meghalaya is worst hit, as the commuters have been pampered by the shared taxi system in place here which is available at a very economical rate. Hence, even the huge number of cabbies is unable to cater to the demand. Worst so, the public buses too are not plying to every nook and corner of the city and have created the artificial scarcity of public transportation.
The taxi drivers in the state capital can easily avail the professional driving license, hence most of the drivers lack etiquette while dealing with the passengers and most of them openly smoke, some even drink alcohol openly while driving. The taxi drivers can stop at any spot either to pick up or drop off their passengers, while most designated locations for parking for commercial vehicles have turned into a gambling spot and have added to the lack of traffic culture in the city.
In the past, plying of trucks through the city was considered as the main cause of the traffic snarls in the city, especially whenever there is a breakdown. The blame then shifted to the tourist taxies. Now the trucks are diverted through Shillong Bye Pass and the parking for the tourist taxies were shifted out from the heart of the city yet there is no relief to the traffic congestions. Even prior to this, the tourist taxies and sumos were considered as the causes of traffic jams. Now, all have been pushed away from the heart of the city about four years back, yet the situation is still the same.
As mentioned, lack of traffic culture is also one of the main causes; it is not only the passengers of SPTS who stop the buses at their convenience. It is same in the case of cabbies, private and official vehicles, where demarcated embarkation and disembarkation point set up are not utilized.
Too much influence by the politicians and bureaucrats makes it impossible to execute the legislations and carry out the judiciary power. The outcome is that it is impossible to regulate traffic in the state capital and other headquarters. The unplanned development has not only destroyed the natural beauty of the state, the bad sense of aesthetics has choked the city as well. Now, it is impossible to have pure air and clean streets to walk.
The Shillong Traffic Police which has tested every suggestion to ease the congestion is now frustrated and has resolved to rigorous clamping of any vehicle, not sparing even those carrying sick or aged people in the car. Meanwhile, it is a nightmare for all the vehicle owners to find some parking place as the parking lots are always full or in the most inconvenient locations.
It is time for Shillong Traffic Police to concentrate on streamlining the traffic flow by following either the double lane or single flow, and compound the vehicles who cross or overtake in the lane, like the traffic police from Mumbai, Pondicherry and other states do. Hence, the collection of revenue continues and relaxes the fine on parking, as the concerned authorities failed to provide sufficient parking lots for the ever growing numbers of vehicles being added to the streets on daily basis.
According to the reports, an average of 50 vehicles and equal number of two wheelers is being added on daily basis, while the parking lots or some allotted parking space are stagnant. It is time for all the vehicle owners to come together and fight for their Rights to have more parking place around the city. And not to allow the traffic police to keep compounding on parking as the authorities who collect taxes on every vehicle sold failed to provide the space.
The state government offices should have allotted place for the employees to park their vehicle. The contemporary office goers of all ranks are vehicle owners, while no parking lots are provided in any of the government offices.
Same is the case for hotels in the city, not keeping to the Court ruling of providing parking place to the customers. The excuse is that the hotel was set up before the Order was passed; it is just making a mockery of the judiciary. The Court must conduct checking on hotels and hospitals to provide parking places and compound them. The Court can even shut down the hotel while in the case of hospitals; directives should be given to expand it so that there is smooth flow of vehicles and ambulances, especially during emergencies.
With a new High Court Judge, the new Governor, and Director General of Police in the state, and the New Chief Minister and Home Minster it is hoped that new and innovative plans could be devised to ease the traffic congestion and solve the parking nightmare of the citizens besides streamlining the erring bus drivers and passengers.