Traffic in Itanagar – A commuter’s nightmare

[ Marli Kamki ]
Smart city designate Itanagar and its adjoining areas like Naharlagun, which together form the capital complex, has its own story to tell when it comes to traffic management and related knots.
Traffic congestions on urban road networks across the globe have become increasingly problematic since the 1950s. In the present decade, smaller states in the subcontinent, experiencing rapid urbanization – such as ours – are no exception.
Shoddy pace of road construction, coupled with manmade fallacies, including aggressive display of theatrics on the road, have resulted in long traffic jams on the main road stretches of Itanagar, Naharlagun, Nirjuli, and even on the road leading to Itanagar from Naharlagun and vice versa. What exactly causes traffic jams on the narrow roads of Itanagar almost every day (in some stretches even on Sundays)? What makes our people so prone to aggressive overtaking and line-jumping?

As per the annual report of the road transport & highways ministry for the year 2018-19, the total number of road accidents were reported at 4,64,910, causing injuries to 4,70,975 persons and claiming 1,47,913 lives in the country during the 2017 calendar year. Although the number of road accidents, injured victims and persons killed in 2017 has declined by 3.3 percent, 4.8 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, the accident severity expressed in terms of number of persons killed per 100 accidents rose from 31.4 percent in 2016 to 31.8 percent in 2017.
This same report has also cited traffic rules violation as the single most important factor responsible for road accidents across the country. Exceeding lawful speed accounted for a highest share of 70.4 percent in accidents and 66.7 percent of accident deaths.
If we look at it closely, many of us would be in agreement that violation of traffic rules in our capital ‘city’ has been one of the major factors for the long jams and accidents occurring in broad daylight claiming innocent lives. These are issues discussed almost on a daily basis at home, in cafes, on social media platforms, etc, but traffic management in our growing urban spaces is something not really looked at seriously by those at the helm of affairs.
There are days when it takes an eternity to reach Itanagar from Naharlagun or any of the other towns like Nirjuli or Doimukh. Imagine the loss of time, money and other resources. Imagine the loss to business, governance, and all that is considered important.
The Itanagar police’s initiative of creating the Facebook group, ‘Let us fight traffic violators in Capital Complex’, throws light on the crux of the problem. Members of the group are encouraged to click pictures of traffic violators with their mobile phones and post them in the group. The social media handlers in the police department initiate necessary action after taking note of such posts by members.
According to reports obtained by this daily from the ATR monitoring cell of the Itanagar SP office, the total number of traffic violators detected and endorsed to police stations concerned for necessary action with effect from 10 June, 2019 till 31 January, 2020 stands at 2,358. However, the same report (shown in the figure) also reflects another picture.
The number of traffic violators as reported by vigilant citizens to the Facebook group (having more than 24,000 members) and through WhatsApp (another medium used by the capital police) has shown a steep decline with every passing month since August last year.
The majority of the traffic violations detected in the capital complex have been wrong parking and abrupt overtaking, said Capital SP Tumme Amo.
“The idea behind starting the Facebook group was to encourage people to report traffic violations,” he said, adding that “our people are very image conscious and the group was also to serve as a deterrent to those who were reported through the group.”
On closer study, after the initiation of this social media-driven initiative, it has come to the fore that even high-ranking government officers have been penalized for various traffic violations.
Not many days ago, in the Facebook group currently managed by the Itanagar SP office, information regarding traffic violation by the official vehicle of the Lower Dibang Valley SP was posted. It was later learnt that the vehicle was fined Rs 1000 for wrong parking.
However, despite the apt handling of the traffic woes by the Itanagar police, many regular commuters are apprehensive. How long will such measures continue, as most of them are short-term and personality-driven? What if tomorrow some other officer takes over? Will traffic management in the capital be taken up with the same zeal and gusto?
Planning of the roads and other structures, including utilities in urban centres like Itanagar, should be done at least keeping in mind the next 30 to 40 years.
Amo said: “The four-lane highway in Itanagar will definitely minimize the traffic problems, but it will not solve it. Existing and upcoming structures on the busy stretches have been allowed with simply no parking spots. Imagine the busy civil secretariat stretch with banks all along the roads. As long as people are parking their vehicles on both sides of the main roads, including the highway, there will always be traffic woes.”
Those in authority may tilt the tide, but for how long? It should be the duty and responsibility of the citizens also to be informed about traffic rules and be somewhat vigilant and a little patient while driving or riding on the road. It is also time for those who whiz around in their cavalcades even when others are stuck in traffic jams to give a serious thought to seeking a permanent solution to the ever-growing traffic congestion problems in the state capital from a longer perspective. How about creating more parking spaces and regulating the existing ones for starters? (The reporter is an intern at The Arunachal Times)