While the traffic situation in Pune is still not improving, lot of volunteers and NPO (Non-Profit Organizations) are coming forward to improve the situation. Government and traffic police department is also spending a lot in creating awareness.
Most of these campaigns are focusing on the safety aspects of the traffic rules. For example:
1. Wear Helmets
2. Follow traffic rules and avoid accidents
3. Don’t use mobile phones while driving
All these are good advertisements, it does not connect with me (as a common man) because I know the probability of meeting with an accident every day is not that high. Almost 99% of the time I am troubled with too much of traffic and delays due to traffic jams. Common cause for this is undisciplined drivers who do not follow lanes, do not obey traffic signals, believe that by driving on wrong side of the road they will reach early and so on…
If I have to do a campaign, I will do it to address these issues. I can use video clippings of disciplined traffic. I will focus on the cumulative benefits on time saving. I will focus on cumulative saving on oil (this is current hot topic as well).
Just to give you an example, let’s say if 4-5 errant drivers create a traffic mess to save two minutes of travel time. This would save them let’s say two rupees of petrol. Total saving for these guys would be not more than 20 rupees. Now once they land in mess, they get stuck for 10 minutes each. But they also cause a traffic jam due to other similar drivers going on wrong side of the road. This causes a delay of 20 minutes to about 200 vehicles at least. Now if each vehicle spends petrol worth 5 rupees each (roughly 100 ml) in those 20 minutes, the cumulative waste for 200 vehicles is about 1000 rupees compared to saving of 20 rupees.Is this not a reason enough for those 4-5 drivers to go a little slow and spend those 20 rupees rather than wasting 1000 rupees for all of the vehicles?
I don’t have enough connections and networking to take this up. I hope somebody reading this has. Even if they don’t, at least we can implement it for ourselves. One thing I do regularly is to give way to another person crossing my road before there is a line behind. This causes me 10 seconds may be but avoids a traffic jam or halt of 2 minutes later for at least 50 vehicles. There are many ways to improve speed of traffic on the road. Discipline can actually make traffic faster and still safer than today.
For past few days I am going to office by car rather than the company bus. More and more I travel by car, I have observed that the traffic jams in Pune are caused primarily by drivers driving on wrong side. On a 4 lane road, you are going at good pace as there are not many vehicles on your side and suddenly you find that one of the rash drivers from the oncoming side is driving on the wrong side without any provocation. I say "Hey! that’s my side you are driving on!" A typical Puneri answer you will get is "What’s the problem man? You have some much space further to your left! Why don’t you give us some space"
Am I responsible if there is so much traffic on your side, I say. I have every right to drive on my side of the road. I finally have started doing one thing. I just keep my side and stop in front of the errant driver’s vehicle. This causes lot of anger on their part but I keep my cool and do not abuse anyone or say anything. At least I am resisting and not letting these guys go. My wife says, why am I wasting my time on these people, but if no one resists, people will keep doing wrong things. Isn’t it?
This reminded me of something that we used to do when I was in school. Remember in our geometry box we have something called as divider? A small tool with two pointed needles? It was not just a tool for geography. We had wooden benches in those days. So this divider was used to divide our desktop in two halves and the bench partners would fight for their share of the desktop. I was not allowed to move my book on the other half of the desktop and I did not allow my partner to do that as well. You know… fighting for our own area was in our blood. I am sure this trend is still there in school children. Why not use that same spirit on the roads? Will this not better the situation? One of the foremost thing that needs to be implemented in Pune traffic is lane discipline. I am using my childhood learning to do my bit.
The first rule of traffic in India is “All vehicles will drive in the left side of the road.”
In Pune when this rule is not observed can we expect any other rule will be followed?
Breaking traffic rules is many time not very obvious to Punekar’s. They don’t even realize that they are breaking the rules and if you try to stop them from doing it, Punekar’s get very cross. However, rules are rules and five most commonly broken traffic rules in Pune are
1. Driving on the wrong side of the road when the road divider strip is continuous: When the road dividing strip is continuous, it means that you are not suppose to cross it and go on the wrong side. When it is double and continuous, it is even stricter. But still people casually cross this line.
2. Cutting the corners: While taking right turns, most of the people do not realize that they are cutting the corner short i. e. they are on the wrong side of the road. Lot of people think that if there are 5-6 oncoming vehicles from the other side, taking the turn early will help then go quickly. But in reality it happens the other way.
3. Crossing the stop line at signals: Punekar’s are always busy looking at other sides’ signal. If they are in the front row, they are so lost in thought that they slowly start coming forward when any other side gets green signal. I have never understood this. When the signal is green, the additional 10 meters that we have crossed when we were waiting hardly matters. Do we do something really significant in the time saved? Also most of the time when crossing the stop line we are preventing the pedestrians from crossing the road. These pedestrians then are caught in the middle of the traffic and cause more hindrance.
4. Driving on the wrong side of the road when the divider does not have any opening nearby: If you do not have enough money to drive extra 100 meters to go to other side of the road, why do you buy the vehicle? Should having enough money to buy the vehicle be the eligibility criteria or should having enough money to buy the fuel be the eligibility criteria?
5. Recognizing other people’s right to way: Everyone on the road has right to way. When some other vehicle is trying to cross the road or trying to take turn, most of us rush in as if we will be losers we give way to others. Many times giving way to one crossing vehicle allows everyone to go in quick time. We do the same to pedestrians as well.
Pune University square is one of the busiest crossings in Pune. It connects at least 3-4 major areas – Pune University, Aundh, Pashan, Senapati Bapat Road and has few major landmarks around – again the univ, Chatushringi temple, Raj bhavan, Rural Police offices, schools like Loyola’s & St. Joseph’s. During the rush hours this area is completely packed. Until few days back, the flyover work in this area was creating more chaos than what it was trying to solve. But people tolerated all this because the flyover was going to be complete soon and the speed of the traffic was going to increase.
So finally about a month back the flyover was complete and opened for traffic. Everyone was happy and then suddenly someone found out – “Hey! the traffic in this area is too fast and it is dangerous for the pedestrians”. Once again there was some noise created in the Pune Municipal Corporation and the result…
There is a speed limit of 40km/hr in this area.
You spend so much to speed up the traffic in the area and then what do you finally do? Impose speed limit! Wow! what a way to solve a problem!
Every now and then we come across the street children begging for some money. Typically these kids will go to car drivers and knock on the windows and beg for some food or money. The sheer expression on their face will make you really feel pity about them and specially if your kids are in the car, you will automatically compare their situation with your kids. My daughter when she was about 4-5 years old, started really understanding the situations these kids are into and sometimes, when she used to run around the street or busy shopping malls, we used to scare her telling that someone will abduct her and will force her to beg at signals.
Some time back a volunteer from CRY came to our residence. Some of the stories he told me about the way these kids land into the streets were really horrifying. It seems that the younger ones (1-2 years old) are sedated so heavily that they are always sleeping. The women carrying them don’t feed them properly and typically these kids die by the time they are 3 years old due to drugs. Then there are some older ones, 4-5 years onwards, who are a little bit better off as they beg independently. But then even their collection is looted by the senior beggars and poor kids end up in malnutrition, unhygienic state. They do not get chance to bath, not enough clothes to wear and so on…
But life still goes on. It makes these kids so blunt to the situation and they get so used to it that between the two red signals they play on the road dividers. So you see something like this… The small kid is playing with the other kids or is having a little fight with them over something. You are trying to rush in only to find out that the signal has turned red just two vehicles before you. You have no option to jump the signal and have to stop. Suddenly the kids who were playful few seconds back, come to your window and make such a face that most of the greatest actors would leave their business and start up another business. Yesterday also the same thing happened to me. The kid was actually throwing something really dirty below the car and I was getting angry because it looked like he was going to make the car dirty. The windows were rolled up so I knocked on the glass and in a second, the kid was making a begging face.
I am always in two minds about the beggars, especially the younger and valid lot. If you give them money that is like promoting begging. If you do not, you are not really sensitive to the poor persons situation. To give or not to give becomes a question and I end up not giving money cos, I feel the physically fit should struggle more to work and earn money. At the same time being a beggar is not really being lazy, you have to work hard to earn that money. It is also a lot of pain and suffering. You can not take bath for days even if you earn enough by begging. You have to stand on the road and fill the pollution inside your body to earn your livelihood. Also there is no guaranteed income. You have to keep searching places where you will get more money and then there is competition. Jokes apart but this is really serious business. Lot of people tell me that there is lot of money in begging. Many of them earn more than the middle-class salaried person. But then my question is, will you change your business and become a beggar if you have a choice?
I think I certainly will not; just for the sake of my self esteem. But does the situation of these beggars really has any place for self esteem, what drives one into this business? I wonder…
So the question is, should we give these people any alms or not?
P.S. I am still not somehow inclined to see the movie Traffic Signal by Madhur Bhandarkar. Lot of people tell me it is a good movie but still…
Well… it was my second day in Rickshaw to office. This time I was returning. On the way we got stuck in traffic and it made both of us talk. This guy was one of the very decent guys and his experiences were really good.
1. He told me that during his business hours, unlike his other professional colleagues, he never says no to any customer and that pays huge dividends to him. On one occasion, a couple asked him to drop then to Pune railway station. Being a rush hour, quite a few had said no to them. He was on his way to station and this couple asked him to drop them to a good hotel near the station. He dropped them to one on the way. The security guy asked him to wait for sometime and the hotel management paid him 200 bucks for bringing them a customer. Which was almost 5 times the rent he got from the couple.
2. Quite a few such incidents were of similar nature. He once dropped a passenger from University to Bhosale nagar, which is about 2-3 km. Again few others had refused to come. The passenger asked him, if he can wait for another 30 minutes, he was going to the airport. He waited and earned 250 bucks.
3. With another passenger who asked him to drop to the airport, he told me the most shocking story. At the airport there is a long queue of autowalas and standing in that queue is sheer waste of time. So many of them return empty handed. But this time when he dropped a passenger, another autowalah came and asked, if he was willing to go anywhere. He said yes. The other guy said, his number had come but he did not want to go and was willing to send the passenger to him. He soon brought the passenger. The fare to his destination was fixed at 160. The other autowalah asked him 50 buck out of that and he got 110. Being curious, this fellow turned on his meter and found that the actual fare to the destination would have been 80. So he was still in surplus. He told me that this is a regular business of some guys at the airport. They wait in the queue and earn commission, without going anywhere. Since the pre-paid fares take care of 50% return charges, it was always affordable.
However, keeping the airport story apart, moral of his experiences was, if you are willing to take any opportunity in business, you are likely to come across bigger opportunities. Those who are very choosy, typically losers and cribbers. Be ready for hard work and fortune will follow you.
Last week my Puneri friend Mahesh, who is now in Delhi, visited the city. Someone in Delhi commented about the Puneri public breaking traffic signals.
Mahesh’s reply to that was in his classic style. He said, “You guys don’t understand. Democracy is in the roots of Puneri public. When the traffic signal is Red, a whole lot of people decide that it is not Red and other people accept it. You can’t find a better example of democracy in blood of people anywhere in the world.”
Well I never looked at it this way. Going forward, I am enjoying this democracy everyday now. What a stress-buster!
Today morning I went to drop my daughter to her school. There was lot of rush and traffic jam. As I was coming to the main road from the lane, there were these two special puneri items. They dropped their kids just at the end of the lane as the kids were old enough to go the remaining 100 meters. These guys although knowing that there are lot of vehicles waiting behind them, tried to save their petrol and turned on the main roan bang opposite to the traffic direction. This jammed the traffic on both the main road as well as in the lane. It took us complete 5 minutes to come out of this whole mess.
My simple maths says, to save about 2 minutes extra round trip if I am spending 5 minutes in traffic jam wasting not only my fuel but also of 10 more cars. I am causing more harm to the society.
Moral of the story: Don’t just think about how much petrol YOU are saving. Think about how much you are saving PLUS how much others are wasting because of you. If the net effect is saving, then only take those short cuts.