New Delhi: With the ever increasing population and fleet of cars, the national capital is often seen choked with long traffic snarls at almost across all the major junctions in the city during peak hours, and the Delhi Traffic police responsible for maintaining smooth flow of traffic toils through the day to ensure that smooth traffic flow is maintained across the capital city, but is able to do only so much since road engineering and the road length of the city has remained almost constant for the last decade and encroachments have become rampant.
A typical traffic police officers’ day begins at around 7 am when they are supposed to reach their respective police stations for briefing and post the briefing the officers are sent on field duty before 8 am, that is when the peak traffic hour begins to ensure that the wheels keep moving and minimum inconveniences is caused to road users.
It is pertinent to note here that even before the morning briefing begins, the traffic circle officer and the personnel posted in the circle takes a round to ensure that no road accidents have occurred, trees fallen on the road and all the traffic signals are working so that once the peak hour beings there is no inconvenience for the commuters.
As the morning peak hour continues till 11 am, these cops on duty in their respective field areas are on their toes managing junctions and regulating the traffic. It is during the thin traffic hours between 12 in the noon to around 4 in the evening when the cops focus on enforcement and take whatever small break is allowed for them.
The rush hour begins once again from 5 pm in the evening when office goers make a beeline to return to their respective homes and this continues till 9 pm. As soon as the evening rush hours start and cars begin to pile up on Delhi roads these traffic cops are rushed to their respective junctions to manage the traffic and ensure that smooth flow of traffic is reported from across the capital. The traffic officers also at times are required to regulate traffic manually when the volume of traffic increases significantly in certain junctions in the national capital.
These traffic personnel who work to ensure that Delhi moves smoothly every day often face the brunt of the weather in Delhi. Be it the harsh winters or the scorching summer heat of Delhi, they are to report for their field duty every day. Even during the monsoon, no matter if it is heavily pouring, they are there on the roads to ensure that Delhi on its wheel keeps moving. Even during the peak pollution time, these traffic personnel are on duty inhaling the deadly pollutants and risking their lives every day to ensure that Delhi isn’t choked with cars.
However, Delhi Police officials that this correspondent spoke to have said that during the peak hours the traffic personnel posted on field duty are instructed not to focus on enforcement but to focus on regulation of traffic.
“Our foremost duty is to ensure that the traffic flows smoothly across all the roads in Delhi and traffic junction discipline is maintained during the peak hours. As the number of cars on roads increases significantly and therefore instructions have been given to the traffic officers on ground to focus on regulation of traffic rather than on enforcement. This has been done to ensure that bottlenecks and unnecessary traffic snarls are not created due to repeated stopping of cars. The regulation is done during the non-peak hours,” a senior Delhi Police official told The Sunday Guardian.
Enforcement of the traffic rules that comes as another important aspect of the traffic police is often marred with controversies and allegations. Road users have often complained about how a traffic cop “misbehaves” with them when they are caught for violating a traffic rule, but the reality may be of stark difference.
This correspondent has spoken to multiple traffic officers on duty and has been witness to several such violators who are caught by traffic personnel on the road throwing around their weight or trying to negotiate with the traffic officers to let them off for their “offence”.
Some of the major violations that are caught by the traffic officials include red light jumping, over speeding, no seat belt and stop line violation.
The Traffic personnel on ground are nowadays equipped with body worn cameras and are also given mobile phones to capture the offence so that the violators are shown their footage as part of the evidence when the traffic police are issuing a challan for them.
“As part of our duty we have to deal with a lot of people and everyone is different. When caught for violation, they try to make calls to different people they know to let them off, but most of the time we have seen that calls go unanswered. Some argue with us, some try to negotiate to let them off, but our duty is to enforce the law and anyone who is violating it will be penalised. If they don’t listen to us, we issue them a court challan.” A traffic officer who did not wish to be named told this correspondent.
The Delhi Police is also taking help of technologies to ensure that road users are instilled with some sense of discipline when they are out on the streets. To ensure that this is done, the Delhi Police has already installed 125 speed cameras that can detect over speeding and send notices to the respective car owners, while around 172 Red Light Violation Detection (RLVD) cameras are installed in 43 locations across the national capital. According to police officials a second batch of such cameras would soon be installed in other major junctions across the city.
Deployment of Traffic cops
The Delhi Traffic police has a total sanctioned strength of 6000 personnel, but the current strength of the Delhi traffic police stands at about 5400. Out of these 5400 traffic personnel available to the Delhi Traffic police, around 3800 to 4000 traffic cops are on roads every day spread across the length and breadth of the city.
Out of this strength, police officials have said that around 300 to 350 officers are on duty every day for VVIP movements across Delhi. The Traffic police is also responsible to ensure free and smooth passage for VVIP movements and therefore with regards to this a significant chunk of its resource is utilised everyday to ensure smooth VVIP movements.
Deployment of the traffic police in major junctions is also a meticulous exercise that the senior officers of the Delhi Traffic police undertake. According to Police sources, every week review meetings are done to see which place in Delhi is witnessing more traffic and how many officers are there in that area, depending on the demand and the reports from specific areas traffic police personnel are deployed every week.
“A detailed plan is chalked out based on the reports that are received from the ground. We also have to keep in mind about the diversions that are needed to be given if there is VIP movement, or some repair works are being done on the road, or some major bottlenecks are being created. We try to get inputs on all these issues and make our deployment plan,” a senior Delhi Traffic Police officer told this correspondent.
The Delhi police has also identified about 77 corridors as major congestion hotspots and some of which includes Patel Road, Aurobindo Marg, Mehrauli, Sardar Patel Marg, Teen Murti Marg amongst others and deployment of traffic officers at all these major junctions are done every day.
Solution for Delhi’s traffic?
The long traffic snarls witnessed by every Delhiites while commuting on Delhi roads is a cause of limited road availability, old road engineering, encroachments and illegal parking on the road side.
Delhi has about 13,000 km of road length and about 1 crore 50,000 registered cars and according to police sources the number of cars that ply on Delhi roads is about 2 crore cars, given the fact that cars from the NCR region also plies on Delhi roads and many believe that the only solution to Delhi traffic is coordinated effort from the police, Delhi government and the civic agencies to clear up the traffic mess that Delhi is in. According to police authorities, illegal encroachment on roads and illegal parking near congested market areas adds to the traffic woes, especially during the peak hour.
A senior police officer that this correspondent spoke to remarked that Delhi is exhausted with cars and the road available is limited, the only possible way to manage the traffic in Delhi is to either go overground that is by building more flyovers or to go underground that is constructing subways at major congestion points.
“There is limited road availability in Delhi and every month the number of cars is increasing. By the time a flyover is made, Delhi adds more cars in the city, the problem comes back to square one. The Delhi Police is making every effort to ensure that traffic is smooth but during peak hours when everyone is trying to reach back home or go to work the travel time will increase keeping in mind the traffic volume suddenly increases manifold. It is only this much that we can do,” a senior Delhi Police officer told this correspondent.
While this officer also said that the police from time to time makes suggestions to the civic agencies on where they can improve on the road infrastructure. He also said that the local police as well as the civic agencies would also need to work together to remove encroachments and illegal parking since everyone has limited resources and it is humanly not possible to be present at all the places every time.
“Illegal encroachments are removed from time to time, but as soon as the police go away from the spot, they come back again. How is it possible to station our men all the time to ensure no encroachment is done? Parking is also another major problem. There are crores of cars in Delhi, but very little parking space. The Major market areas have no designated parking spots and therefore everyone parks their car on the road, this decreases the road size from two lanes to a single lane road and creates traffic jams. The civic agencies should create enough parking spaces across the city and increase the surface parking charges by at least four to five-fold and decrease the overground parking charge so that people are incentivised to park their cars in designated parking spots. This will help smoothen traffic flow. How many cars can we tow and how many times? Delhi needs a permanent solution to parking issues,” the police officer quoted above said.