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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Traffic congestion in Ranchi

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Long ago in 1985, while walking on the main road in Ranchi, then called as the summer capital of Bihar state of India, I had asked a question to my companion, a manager in a dairy farm. That question was, “Why do the traffic police hang roped in the middle of the road here and there in this city?” He answered immediately and the answer was, “To teach the road users how to use the road”.

I was not satisfied with the answer as I had taken it more as a remark than an answer. After five years, the manager of the dairy farm was transferred to some other station. I don’t know where he is at the present time. But the question is still in my mind as the rope is still on the road, dividing the road users in two streams. I don’t understand who should go through which track as I am unable to distinguish the public or the vehicles moving through these two tracks in the same direction. If you say that the track touching the middle line of the road is meant for cars and other motorized vehicles; I see that rickshaws, cyclists and pedestrians also move on that track? If you say that the track touching the outer border of the road is meant for pedestrians and cyclists; I see speedy bikes, scooters, cycles and yes pedestrians, all move through this track. I see cyclists competing with scooters, rickshaws competing with other rickshaws and sometimes or most often overtaking them also, along the same track. I am bitterly confused. I cannot learn the rule of the road simply by observing the road users of this city.

Many things have changed since Ranchi became the capital of the newly formed state, Jharkhand. A portion of the Bihar state was cut out on 15th November 2000 to form this state for which the people of the land had been raising their voices from time to time. No sooner than Ranchi became the state capital, the traffic on its roads increased and increased and kept on increasing and is keeping it up. I recall, once a child holding his father’s finger while they were walking in the morabadi ground asked, “Dad, where are these people rushing to?” “They are not rushing, they are going to different destinations they have to go as they have already walked after rising early in this morning” the father of the child had said. The city awakes earlier than I and you. May be that it will not sleep at all after some time. It may be seen running all the time, as many other cities do. But, which way to run...? Through the track touching the middle line of the road, or through the track touching the outer boundary of it? How to overtake … through right side or through the left side? Or … through any side we find space?

Earlier, rickshaws in Ranchi used to move along the road on a single row. But now the rule has changed in spite of the unchanged trend of keeping ropes along the roads. Motor bikes were few in number and many smart, robust and well built men used to drive them. Cars and similar means of transport were few in number and many people used to share a single one. Today, bikes are uncountable and so are cars also. Sharing a single car by three to four persons is out of fashion. Everyone has to move in his own car.

Bicycle has been marginalized. Teenagers go for tuitions or for coaching classes on bikes. Since time is precious, they cannot compromise with speed. Since roads do not teach the lesson of how to use them, any one can move along any track demonstrating all types of motion- linear, random, zigzag, circular, and semicircular or even any type invented by the driver himself. For a traffic police, it is not so important a job, and sometimes risky too. People of high profiles live in the capital city, and he knows that a poor man cannot afford sending his sons and daughters to attend costly coaching, or tuitions even on bicycles, nothing to talk about motor bikes. If in government service, service is the first in his priority list. He can not risk his service for a law breaking teenager boy. Someone from you may ask, “Do all the police men know the rules of the road?” “Certainly”, I will have to say as I too cannot take risk.

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