Is Himachal traffic-police sitting on a gold-mine, oblivious to it?


By: Vishal Thakur

As I made (‘negotiated’ would be the word to use here but I’d happily leave that for the professional journos!) the mind-numbing bend into the enchanting valley of Banjar in Kullu district, my numb mind was snapped back to reality and quite forcefully too, by the spectacle that, so furiously, unfolded in front of me. A pick-up truck, completely uncontrolled, rolled down from the hill opposite me, in a wild, angry, drunken stupor. Five men, all of them looking an identical expansion of the man on the far left, were impossibly bundled into the cabin, that the good folks at TATA had intended (so thoughtfully) for three grown-ups. Between cursing and braking hard, visions of demons from Ramananda Sagar’s ‘Ramayana’, all the way up to Gulshan Grover from a c-grade 80’s flick to the more recent atrocities from Hollywood (courtesy Baz Lurman), flew before my eyes.

Imagine the shock, horror and a complete submission to doom, when I finally realised that the vague shape I could make out in the dust, that was hanging out of the truck, near the driver’s door, wasn’t a sack of potatoes as I had, so conveniently and very hopefully, imagined. It was a human being. And as this nightmare emerged from the cloud of dust, my heart sank completely when I realised that he was the driver. The guy wasn’t even inside the truck!

Know what the scariest part in this story is? I haven’t exaggerated here at all. I didn’t even tell you that they were all happy, drinking in the pick-up truck and actually had a look of lunatic ecstasy on their (I believe) faces. Well, actually I told you that just then, but… you know what I mean.

From my completely unverified research and calculations, if HP traffic police were to put three policemen on a corner of a road at any point between Nagwain and Manali on the highway, armed with nothing but a breathalyser, on a fine summer evening, they would easily charge more than 200 drivers within three hours for drunk-driving and equally-stupid driving offences. If the average fine for that offence was to be Rs 500, that’s Rs 100,000. In three hours. At one check-point. During the wedding season, I would simply double this amount. If we had just one check-point in every district, that’s 12 districts. That’s all in one day. This could be replicated once a week for a few years before people start agreeing on the fact that drink driving is a very stupid idea. Do the math.

The money raised could be used in many ways. Not for me to decide. Casual suggestion: provide the poor guys with better, well-equipped cars, enough of that 100cc Hero Honda crap. A uniform upgrade wouldn’t hurt. The licensing and registration could be upgraded to electronic levels. A central database for traffic offenders could be created. More police to put those idiots who think it’s ok to drink and drive out of the roads. The list is endless.

At the end of the day, it’s not about revenue generating. It’s about making sure drunken people are not on the roads. For that to work efficiently, you need a better infrastructure. That requires money. This is how you make it.

Countless times, I have been on highways in HP and have been overtaken from the wrong side. People riding a 100cc bike flash their lights at me when I’m doing 80 in a car. They can’t be serious! They’re trying to tell me to stop so that they can make the bridge before me? More than half of road casualties in HP are a result of carelessness, under-age driving and alcohol-fuelled idiots behind wheels on the roads. A huge percentage of these incidents are easily avoidable by educating young people not only about the hazards of drunk-driving but also the stupidity behind it. There’s definitely a small but growing trend among the young generation of doing things the right way. This trend needs to be supported and nurtured by the authorities and more importantly, by the elders.

And I hope people stop flashing lights at each others – that behaviour is mindlessness at Neanderthal levels.

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