Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Traffic Management in Indore : A big Challenge

By Col LK Anand Retd


The aspect of traffic management in Indore has been a burning topic and issue since long and any amount of efforts, put in by various experts and authorities on the subject usually have been half hearted, peace-meal or as drives (Abhiyans) for the sake of publicity, and have so far failed to bring any tangible results. The whole gamut of traffic control in the city has made, the city police and the administrative set up, look totally indifferent, casual, incapable and helpless to solve the traffic woes of the city and to find any worthwhile solution. The aspect thus requires serious consideration by one and all including authorities at all levels, for evolving the most efficient and permanent solution. The topic has been given a serious thought and has been discussed in the succeeding paragraphs for consideration.

Most good suggestions are often not considered or abandoned, more due to poverty of our thought process and stingy approach rather than due to financial poverty or considerations. So, let an effective solution to this serious problem be evolved for determined implementation and not be rejected just for financial considerations, as it would do a world of good to over 30 lakh population of Indore. It is also hoped that the knowledgeable population of Indore, would also extend its full co-operation and strive in ensuring that Indore eventually possesses the most well managed and smooth traffic system in India.

The discussion has been divided in three parts. So please keep a tag, so that you do not miss any part and be a part of the whole discussion. Your valuable suggestions for improvement would be most welcome. 

Traffic management in Indore : A Big Challenge

No thought or plan will ever succeed or provide any value or benefit 
to society, if not put into practice or implemented

I have had the opportunity of experiencing Indore traffic for over twenty years now and I can safely say that if not the most unmanaged traffic in India, it would be one of the most mismanaged and unruly amongst the top Indian cities. Indore is being tipped to be heading towards the status of a metro. Some illustrious son of Indore remarked a few years back that within ten years Indore would be no less than Singapore. It is wondered whether dream of this person and many hopeful aspirants would ever be fulfilled, especially from the point of view of traffic system.

Pitiably, in spite of all the efforts and suggestions of experts like Shri Jagat Narayan Joshi, talked of as an authority in traffic management in Indore, many lectures/discussions on traffic problems and their possible solutions arranged by Abhyas Mandal of Indore, known for arranging lectures and talks on hundreds of national and local issues with authorities like, Indore Commissioner in attendance, as also many a drives conducted by Indore Police, at times under the direct control of several  past Inspectors General (IG), Dy Inspectors General (DIG) and Superintendents of Police (SP) have brought really zero results. The traffic system has actually gone from bad to worse and there appears to be no sign of improvement.

It ultimately boils down to an inference that none of the people in authority including our worthy representatives possess the determination and capability to set right the highly disorganised traffic system in Indore. It obviously presents a shabby picture of tardy management and capabilities of the highly reputed and heavily paid IAS and IPS cadres of India, who seem to be more embroiled with works and issues or personal agenda around their office tables. Under the circumstances could any solution be in sight in the prevailing scenario or in the very near future. To hope that just by lectures and discussions, un-thoughtful planning, with infrequent half hearted and piece meal efforts on ground to implement a haphazard traffic system, would ever cure the chronically sick traffic of Indore. Perhaps no serious brain storming has been done towards this end, to evolve an effective solution, as a result of which, the traffic system continues to suffer and deteriorate further and further with more and more vehicles being added on the roads.

Studying and analysing the problem

It needs no emphasis that nothing would be possible without a thorough study and analysis to identify the problems prevailing in the system. There are three main elements in traffic, the living beings, the vehicles and the roads. The living beings and the vehicles move on the roads and the task is to manage their movement on the roads. How simple it appears to any one for just managing three items. Frankly speaking the major problem is to handle the living beings. If the living beings, mainly human beings can be handled and guided or even forced to follow rules religiously, half the problem would have been solved.

All human beings in various age groups possess personal wisdom, a value system to have a respect for the law of the land as also other human beings moving alongside on the road combined with personal ego which compels them to stand up against anything which does not seem compatible with their own likings, interests and lopsided wisdom. Very often they instead of becoming good citizens for the society become adversaries of the system. Our monitoring system has to act against such adversaries in a deserving manner. Fear or favour has no place for such defaulters.

The management of innumerable types of vehicles on our roads and the roads themselves pose tremendous challenge and require substantial improvements in many ways which can only be possible with determined efforts of the local administration with support from the state government which could help in streamlining the traffic system.

Some of the salient points which need to be handled smoothly, efficiently or even with ruthless determination, involving strong assertiveness, imposing fines or even use of force at times against chronic and deliberate defaulters need to be discussed and analysed. There is thus a need for us to study and examine threadbare various elements involved in traffic management, which would assist us in evolving a suitable system and to find effective solutions to the prevailing problems.

Handling the living beings

The human beings moving on the roads in any class of vehicle have to be trained and made or even forced to realise that all roads are to be shared in a judicious, fair and impartial manner by one and all and ones liberty to move on the road under no circumstance should infringe upon the other persons’ right to use the road. There is a need to make them aware of main features of the latest Motor Vehicles act explaining their duties, rights, violations and penalties including fines, conditions for confiscation/cancellation of driving licenses, or even imprisonments under grave violations. Every person who moves on the roads has to abide by the regulations and must be in possession of a valid license. This is especially so for the people driving unregistered and improvised vehicles coming especially from rural areas including tractors, trolleys and other such innovations moving on the roads and visiting city at odd hours and times. Such an illegal trend must be strictly dealt with.

Some of the major violations which need to be urgently addressed are:-

(a) Jumping the red light, especially in the absence of traffic policeman
(b) Crossing the stop line and crowding/infringing the Zebra crossings
(c) Crowding at stop lights by scrambling from all directions especially by two wheelers.(d) Travelling in wrong lanes and changing them at the traffic lights creating avoidable      confusion
(e) Not sticking to their own lanes and changing them haphazardly at own convenience not bothering about fellow travellers
(f) Not waiting for their turn and speeding haphazardly out of turn after red light becomes green.
(g) Driving opposite to flow of traffic on double lane roads
(h) Parking and stopping at unauthorised locations
(j) Two wheeler drivers/pillion riders travelling without helmets
(k) Two wheeler drivers carrying many more than authorised two passengers
(l) Cars still having black film in violation of Supreme court’s directions
(m) Number plates still having unauthorised colours or numbering patterns
(n) Overloading and carriage of unauthorised goods by public transport
(o) Charging unauthorised fare from passengers by public transport
(p) Taking out processions and marches without authority
(q) Erecting stages/rostrums on roadside without authority
(r) and many more created on whims and fancies of people

There is also a serious problem of animals like cows, buffalos, pigs, stray dogs, goats etc moving or squatting on the roads. These stray animals create avoidable hindrance to the smooth passage of normal traffic. Many half hearted efforts by the administration have not solved the problem. It is felt that dealing with such problems is an ongoing requirement and should not be discontinued. The operation has to be seriously and deliberately planned and executed by the local administration in close co-operation with traffic and other police. Procedures for handling of each type of animals must be properly laid down and strictly followed. There has to be sufficient manpower for apprehending the animals, vehicles to lift them, and adequate place to keep them outside city limits. They must be handed back after recovering maximum fines/penalties or disposing them off at frequent intervals through auctions or suitable means. Punitive action against defaulting owners must be taken to discourage them. The legal aspects in such cases must be given due regards.

Deployment and conduct of Traffic Police

The traffic police is the main instrument responsible for enforcing the traffic rules outlined in the Motor Vehicles Act as well as to ensure safe, smooth, hassle free and efficient traffic management. So, their proper conduct and performance in all related spheres needs to be specifically ensured. The traffic police should be totally bifurcated/separated from rest of the police force and be free from any involvement with VIP security or any other policing duties which would unnecessarily deplete its manpower. The traffic police of a district must be headed by at least a DIG rank officer, supported by sufficient SP rank officers, Dy SPs and other supervising police officers, proportionate to the strength of the work force deployed on various duties on the roads. Under no circumstances should there be any interference in their functioning from any other quarters.

Indore is a large city and has a large road network with well over fifty major road crossings which are required to be regularly manned for at least twelve hours continuously. In addition there is a need to have traffic police patrolling on all roads to detect and act upon major traffic violations. If we have to have a smooth and efficient running traffic system there is a need to have at least 8 or more police men per shift for two shifts of 6 to 8 hours per major square/road crossing and at least four police men per shift of 6 to 8 hours per minor square/crossing. In addition quite a few numbers of traffic patrols of two police men on motorcycles to patrol 20-25 Km length of city roads to check traffic violations and also control traffic, if required at various places along the roads. This should also be done in two shifts of 6 to 8 hours to watch the roads at all odd hours depending on requirements. Patrolling should be further supplemented by mounting/erecting video cameras at important crossings and locations to monitor traffic violations and initiate prompt punitive action against the violators/defaulters.

It is also necessary to have a jeep type vehicle with two to three policemen at each of the major square/crossing and a motor cycle with two policemen at each minor square/crossing to cater to untoward situations which have become quite common and frequent these days. For patrols there should be 25% jeeps and 75% motorcycles. It would also be desirable that traffic policemen are tall well built, smart in bearing, very well turned out throughout their duty hours and should preferably be adequately armed to induce some fear in the minds of traffic violators. All these traffic policemen should be sufficiently empowered to be able to handle and deal with violators in an effective manner. They under no circumstances should get influenced by any calls from any VIPs/politicians etc, who if necessary may also be booked for interference in performance of official duties.

To further strengthen the traffic police’s hands a few mobile courts with adequate powers may readily be available to deal with the offenders/violators on the spot and induce sufficient fear in the minds of other fellow travellers. This, if done seriously in letter and in spirit should be able to inculcate desired traffic sense, awareness as well as will to follow the traffic rules more seriously and sincerely amidst road users.

It may be foolhardy to expect drastic improvements in Indore’s traffic system without its traffic police playing a prominent role towards effective planning and strict implementation of the system planned for regulating traffic.  All those who have been watching the functioning of the traffic police department are not at all inspired by the sloppy ways the traffic police conducts itself and its operations. Unless drastic actions for transforming and strengthening the functioning and performance of traffic police department is undertaken on priority, Indore’s traffic may continue to be in doldrums.

Indore population has been observing that at present hardly any traffic police personnel are immaculately turned out, are smart and up right in appearance, bearing and their movements, are adequately aware of proper personal drills as well as of various traffic control signals, possess interest and desire to perform their duties in efficient, effective, assertive and exemplary manner. Such shabbily dressed, slouchy and undisciplined traffic police force instead of inspiring the public to follow their commands, encourages them to disobey them to almost deliberately violate traffic rules.

It is strongly felt that out of 8+ police men at a crossing, two should be earmarked for traffic signals in turn for a specified duration. They must be well and strongly built, be smartly dressed up and have smart headgears like turbans or stylish helmets, should stand out prominently from the rest and be an example to others, move in a soldierly manner and show proper and correct signals for traffic control for people to follow. All the others should be in groups of at least two on all roads of the crossing, adequately armed and with communication sets. Their role should be to detect and apprehend the traffic violators and act against them in accordance with law. They have to be firm and fair in their dealings and not compromise with the expected standards. Such arrangements would perhaps automatically help in improving the traffic.

Some chronic problems related with roads

The present system of roads available in Indore may not be conducive to efficient traffic planning and its enforcement in its present form. It needs to undergo a major transformation. There are innumerable encroachments on the roads in various forms, which do not seem to be having any worthwhile solution due to political patronage available to certain classes of encroachers. Most shopkeepers in nearly all market places habitually display and park their goods well outside their shops’ limits and thus seriously hamper traffic movements all along. Added to that are a number of hand carts, trying to sell their goods in front of the shops, or any available vacant space, thus occupying a major portion of the road. Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) has invariably appeared helpless in finding tangible solution to the problem, mainly due to lack of will power and interference by politicians/leaders or extra constitutional authorities.

Some encroachments are due to failure of IMC to have performed their supervisory duties judiciously, efficiently and dedicatedly over the years, thus allowing builders to continuously subvert the building permissions and to get involved in illegal constructions as well as illegal sale of parking places under hundreds of multi storeyed buildings, and compel vehicle owners to park their vehicles on the roadsides or foot paths. Many half hearted efforts by various collectors to tackle this irregularity have borne no fruits whatsoever and the city traffic continues to suffer unabatedly. IMC and Indore Development Authority have so far not been able to construct quite a few of multi-level parking areas planned in the past and their sanctions and funds allotment obviously have gone abegging, and also compounded parking problems all over the city. 

Many private buses and school buses are habitually parked on the roadside in colonies as well as in public places and drastically restrict road movement and traffic in such areas. In addition Indore city has failed to provide for a solution of parking for transit as well as normal heavy vehicular traffic, like trucks and load carriers outside the city limits by creating sufficient parking and administrative facilities on the out skirts of the city, as a result of which they keep themselves loitering and messing around all over the city limits and parking them helter and skelter wherever they can find space, thus mucking the city roads and creating avoidable traffic control problems for the administration. Indore city even lacks sufficient space for parking of local trucks and various classes of load carriers who also are parked all over the city in an unruly manner. Consequently, the city is faced with an acute problem of traffic management on nearly all city roads due to unlimited traffic violations everywhere.

The Bus Rapid Transportation System (BRTS)

The 11.5 Km long BRTS established on the AB Road was done with a very noble intention of speedily and comfortably moving the public in public transportation systems from one point to another for convenience as well as regulating the rest of traffic in a smooth and efficient manner. However, the shoddy and extremely delayed efforts to implement the project have brought no solace to the traffic woes of the city and belied the hopes and aspirations of the large population of the city. Instead it has added to the traffic problems of the citizens travelling by various means, especially the pedestrians, by seriously hampering their free and smooth movement. The pedestrians are often seen jumping over the BRTS railings to cross the roads due to non provision of suitable means to cross the system, which has resulted in avoidable loss of life and serious injuries to public. This has once again proved and highlighted the lackadaisical attitude, gross inefficiency and inability of the bureaucratic, police and political set up of the city as well as of the state of Madhya Pradesh.

A court case for discontinuance of the BRTS is in progress, on the plea that the local authorities have inconvenienced over 1.50 lakh commuters to benefit just about 15000 odd bus travellers. As a consequence, and due to intervention of the High Court, various modifications in the operation and functioning of BRTS are being tried out, without much success. There seems no end to violations on the BRTS, in spite of strict instructions by the court. Ironically the BRTS staff and as inefficient as ever, Indore police stand as mute spectators and are not able to get the High Court instructions implemented in letter and in spirit. It is wondered whether the BRTS would ever be able to function as it had been foreseen at the time of planning. Some initiative on the part of the newly appointed minister for Urban Administration and Development (UAD) for providing some flyovers and foot over bridges on the BRTS route could partially help the commuters, but when? Why it could not be done at planning stage? It is to be seen whether this would eventually solve all BRTS problems. 

Familiarising the population on traffic system

It is essential to educate the population of Indore on various aspects of traffic management. No one can ever construe a solution to this by sending the population to class rooms or by holding lectures and discussions on a limited scale which obviously cannot be an effective method of teaching or familiarising the population with traffic rules or with the Motor Vehicle Act and so on. However, such lessons could be conveyed to the population by placing all vital and essential traffic instructions, salient provisions of Motor Vehicle Act, various types of requests and warnings by the traffic police, on large sized road sign boards, conveniently placed all along the roads at regular intervals.

The sign boards, traffic signals, banners, advises, warnings, penalties and punishments for various types of traffic violations especially those specified in the latest Motor Vehicles Act, must be in a bold and catchy script in the languages (preferably in Hindi and English) which majority can read and understand. To grill the various aspects of traffic management in the minds of one and all, these signs and writings must be repeatedly placed at regular intervals along all the city roads and on hoardings. It should be done in such a manner that no one should be able to get away on the basis of lack of knowledge or ignorance of the major provisions of Motor Vehicles Act. It can be expected that with these write ups along all the roads, the Indore population would be able to get educated sufficiently, on its own and could start following traffic rules gradually, if not immediately. To overcome the requirement of Government spending for the purpose, I am sure, local corporate world or large business men would be more than willing to adopt various city roads for erecting signposts/hoardings at appropriate locations to impart traffic related knowledge to population of Indore. The VIPs who habitually try and bring in influence through personal calls to save the offenders or traffic violators must be discouraged by ignoring their requests or by booking them as well for interference in the performance of official duties.

Controlling and disciplining major violators

It has been observed for years now that the two wheelers are the greatest offenders and violators of traffic systems, firstly because of their extremely large numbers and secondly due to total and deliberate neglect combined with casual and indifferent attitude towards traffic rules and ethics expected to be followed on the road. It is of utmost importance to control, manage and discipline the two wheelers by whatever means possible. If the Indore Police can devise means to rein in the misadventures of two wheelers and effectively succeeds in doing so, a major battle of traffic management would have been won.  

For this it is strongly suggested, that on all wider roads it would be worthwhile creating a 2.00 to 2.50 M (6.50 to 8.25 feet) wide lane preferably on the left hand side of the road, for exclusive use of the two wheelers. All other traffic including encroachments or kiosks or any vendors must be totally prohibited from entering these lanes. Simultaneously, the two wheelers should also be totally prohibited from entering the other lanes. To facilitate their moves at junctions/crossings or to other roads, connecting lanes should also be marked to prevent them from encroaching upon other parts of the road. Specific instructions for the two wheels about their lanes must also be displayed appropriately on road sign boards along the road. Lane marking should eventually be done with permanent devices, so that the two wheelers do not interfere with other traffic in any manner. This trial could be carried out for at least three months under strict monitoring of traffic police.

The three wheelers such as auto rickshaws or tempos are other conspicuous violators and rarely follow traffic rules. Their conduct also has to be strictly supervised and controlled by the traffic police and other statutory authorities so that they could be disciplined and compelled to abide by traffic rules as well as conduct themselves as per regulations.

Vital aspects requiring strict actions

There is yet another important and drastic requirement of clearing all roads of all types of artificial, temporary and permanent encroachments. This has to be done with the help of the administration, police force, with the assistance of judiciary as well as by the use of removal machinery and cranes etc deployed at selected and chronic locations. As already highlighted earlier, acute shortage of parking areas, have further compounded traffic problems of the city. Most commercial areas are invariably crowded with vehicles parked in a highly unruly and disorganised manner. At times even people on foot find it difficult to negotiate these temporarily encroached areas.

A tangible solution to these problems appears to be to create multilevel parking areas at specified intervals by taking over old/dilapidated/unsafe buildings at various locations along the roads and by compensating the occupants suitably and even by providing them alternate locations. The administration must immediately get all parking areas under multi-storeyed buildings fully cleared without any fear or favour. Penalising defaulting builders suitably and severely, must also be considered so that such irregularities and defaults do not recur in future.

It is also very vital to improve the road surface everywhere, which should be conducive to proper marking of traffic lanes, lane changing zones, zebra crossings, stop lines, parking zones, stopping zones and so on prominently, initially by durable and long lasting paint and eventually by permanent devices such as cat’s eye or any similar device. Traffic police has to play a vital role in strictly enforcing proper use of these markings by checking the defaulters and disciplining the public at large. The police personnel must maintain high integrity and strict sense of duty without any fear or favour. They must come down heavily on habitual violators and not favour or spare them. They could even consider confiscating and if required cancel their licenses in accordance with law.

Introducing technology for traffic management

Use of technology in the form of close circuit TV cameras for detecting and effectively punishing traffic violators, would go a long way in improving traffic systems. In many countries all drivers essentially carry credit cards with sufficient credit limits which are further linked to traffic servers. All categories of traffic violations involving these drivers are detected through communication systems and the drivers are penalised by automatically fining them and instantly debiting their credit cards. As soon as the credit limit of their cards finishes they are suspended from driving. It is very difficult to get a driving license in such countries, unlike India where even a proxy system may work in obtaining a license. Under such conditions traffic violations occur very rarely. It may not take very long for this system to be in place in India, as an Indore girl has developed a similar type of traffic surveillance system and has got the same patented.


All the above suggestions such as making additions to traffic police force, installing or displaying large number of traffic related write ups and road sign boards along roadside, carrying out proper improvement of road surfaces and marking of roads for guiding the population would involve good amount of expenditure. For achieving a sound and effective traffic control system these requirements will have to be met and there is no alternative but to provide for full initial and recurring expenditure, if the authorities want the traffic system of Indore to be as efficient and orderly as anyone would like it to be. Nearly all the points which would require urgent attention and looking into by the authorities who matter, have been covered in the preceding text, though it need not be seen as an ultimate, as there can always be newer ideas for inclusion, if they can further transform the sick traffic system which presently prevails.

There is thus an inescapable need for the highest authority in Indore or even the State of Madhya Pradesh to get fully involved, to have an effective and fool proof traffic management plan drawn out, considering all the suggestions discussed above and have them tried out for eventual and final implementation. None of the suggestions such as, road quality and its marking, encroachments, parking, displaying traffic instructions to familiarise population, technology, and last but not the least the enhancement and conduct of the traffic police force etc can be taken lightly and must be considered in totality for including in the detailed traffic management plan. The situation of Indore traffic has deteriorated so much, that no further delay in putting it into actual practice should be permitted.

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