Ahmedabad is the fifth most populous city in India and is spread over more than 460 square kilometers. It is one of the biggest cities in the state of Gujarat. There are a lot of things the city is famous for but one thing that it is definitely infamous for is : Traffic.
Ahmedabad has a slightly unique problem when it comes to traffic. The city currently have a lot of traffic jams. The problem is the way in which the citizens of the city (dis)obey the traffic rules. The sheer disdain for any traffic rule and the callous attitude towards road safety is something that the city is infamous for.
Ahmedabad has been a victim of rapid urbanization which has not been controlled through planning and hence there is chaos in various aspects. There can be multiple studies done by anthropologists about why citizens of Ahmedabad drive and park the way they do. It would make for an interesting read.
The first thing that comes to mind when we talk about this topic is
“Where is the traffic police?”
Aren’t they supposed to be taking care of this? Aren’t they responsible for the smooth flow of traffic and effective implementation of traffic rules in the city? Aren’t they supposed to penalize the people who break rules?
The answer to all the above questions is yes!
And that’s part of the problem. Traffic police are required to do a lot of things. A lot of times it stretches them too thin. If we have high expectations from our public servants, they deserve high support as well.
What can we do to support the city’s traffic police?
- Ensure that the difference between number of policemen sanctioned and the number of policemen currently on roll is as low as possible.
According to Ahmedabad Traffic Police website, here are the sanctioned vs current strength numbers.
As you can see, there is a large gap in the Police Sub Inspector, Assistant Sub Inspector/ Head Constable, and Police Constable categories. A gap this big for a city that’s growing this fast is receipe for disaster. The department needs to make sure that this gap is reduced and eventually the sanctioned strength also going up proportionate to the population of the city.
- Use data to allot shifts to policemen.
Cameras are being installed at various traffic signals across the city. Traffic data can be collected through those and then used to figure out how many traffic personnel need to be allotted and where. It would make the allotment more strategic.
- Optimize number of hours in a shift.
The traffic police website does not have information about the length of a traffic personnel’s shift but given the nature of the job, anything more than 6 hours at a stretch would be very taxing. The administration should also think about letting the personnel choose their slots so that they can maintain work life balance and their health.
- Shift the focus from collecting fines to managing traffic.
Administration should clearly define the purpose of the police personnel. It would help them prioritize from the list of duties that they have to perform. My suggestion would be to focus on managing traffic and letting the cameras and apps do the work of penalizing offenders. It would greatly reduce the burden of work because now the personnel would have to focus on one specific thing.
- Fitness training and health accessories for all policemen.
There is a physical test when police personnel are hired but there is no support given after that to focus on the physical and mental fitness of the personnel. A dedicated team should monitor and track fitness levels of the personnel and work should be allotted keeping that in mind. Masks with purifiers, a raincoat, and a sweater should be provided to all personnel so that they can guard themselves against pollution and the weather. They should have access to pure drinking water within walking distance from their position.
- Strict penalty for everyone who breaks traffic rules.
The legitimacy or power of the traffic personnel is built when drivers face the consequences of their actions in a systematic and strict method. It builds accountability towards the traffic department. Along with a system for the drivers, there should be a strong accountability system for the traffic personnel as well. No one should demand accountability without fulfilling their duty.
Traffic personnel have a very difficult job. It is our duty to hold them to the highest of expectations but it is also our duty to make sure that they have humane work conditions and the support they need. It is the only way we are going to change the city’s traffic reputation along with building sustainability in the system.