OPINION | Shillong, Sept 3, 2018:
Seat-belts in Shillong are over-hyped – Other things more important than not wearing a seat-belt:
The logic behind making ‘wearing a seat-belt’ mandatory in Shillong where the maximum speed that can be driven during working hours is 30 km/hr, going by traffic-police availability of duty, 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM is ‘ironic’.
Questionable indeed! Why? Because from 8:00 PM on wards till 8:00 AM early the next morning, because of the dwindling number of cars and when the speed do go up to 60-80km/hr, there are no traffic police to check and fine, hence a sweeping majority of the drivers DO NOT find it necessary to wear a seat-belt.
Personally, I feel it would be pretty unfortunate for a driver to die because of a collision at 20km/hr. To be sparsely accurate, it’s unheard of.
Traffic-jams in Shillong – Causes?
Traffic-jams in Shillong are getting worse by the day. The causes and solutions are very easy to identify if we really want to seek a solution:
## Embarkment and Disembarkment: Local cabs and buses of Shillong do not follow a standardise point of embarking and disembarking passengers. Stopping of cabs at odd locations in response to the mere ‘wave of a hand’ on the orders given by block-headed passengers has often led to traffic-jams.
## Unlicensed and pseudo-licensed drivers: Shillong people are great trend followers. In today’s world, it has become a must for everyone to have a car. That is not the problem, the problem arises when these pseudo-licensed drivers are unable to handle a car.
There is also an influx of cars and motor vehicles of all sorts because the law is too focused on seat-belts. For example, the number of school students owning a scooty or a car is unlawfully high. The reason why I chose the word “unlawfully” here is because the minimum age for applying a licence for a private vehicle is 18 years and for a commercial vehicle is 20 years of age.
The standard age group for students in a uniform is 17 years. Yet, “Seat-belts” claim the spotlight.
These unlawful drivers are not only responsible for traffic-jams, but they are also dangerous. There are many accidents courtesy to them. We cannot solely blame the police because it is difficult for the police to spot a minor, but if a minor is found guilty of any such accident, the parents should be whipped for a night or two and then get the car confiscated.
## Assam Tourists: are flocking every nook and corner of the streets of Shillong is another cause
Just last month, the East Khasi Hills S.P. of Traffic had issued a warning against the green stripe cabs for doing their rounds in the main Shillong areas as their permit is strictly for the village areas. However, strange be still the black and yellow cabs are found in abundance in the village areas. Adding to the misery of the white and green cab drivers are the Assam Tourists that are flooding every tourist destination apart from every pocket in Shillong.
Untamed Assam Tourists are dangerous because not all are genuine tourists. According to Vikram Mishri, Indian Ambassador to Myanmar, most of the drugs in the Northeast in particular Meghalaya are imported first from Myanmar to Nagaland and then through Assam into Meghalaya. The result is the growing number of drug addicts in Meghalaya proving dangerous for the society many a time and pushing the entire state to self-destruction mode.
The Meghalaya Traffic Police should come up with a better blueprint in order to have a grip on law and order.
## Wastage of Public money: The Government has funded Bus-stands over the years which are not utilized by both the public and the drivers. We have committed the mistake of under-utilising these focal point landmarks for decades. A decade ago, we can afford to not use them because of the low density in the population of motor vehicles, but in this age and time they should be made relevant. Every metropolitan city in India has to follow a set transportation standard. Why not Shillong?
Pothole-ridden roads have claimed 11,386 lives across the country over the past four years which translates roughly to 7 deaths per day. (Sep, 21, 2017 TOI). We have pot holes everywhere. Just an example of the myriad many, one would find an uneven stretch, highly dangerous for two-wheelers, right in the heart of Shillong, in Khyndailad the road along Centre Point. If this, goes unnoticed then what of the highways? One would easily find pot-holes, uneven stretch of the roads and stones of the few right in the middle of the highway from Shillong to Guwahati.
To add to that, drivers along the highways do not wear a seat-belt though they drive at a minimum of 80kms/hr, 60 kms/hr more than the speed in the city yet, no one bats an eye; but not wearing a seat-belt where a car can barely kill a fly with its speed is a crime worthy of a fine.
On Sundays, there are special checking on the different small pockets of Shillong in particular just outside the Presbyterian church of Nongmensong. The stretch of less than fifty meters is divided by two speed breakers. The need of checking whether a driver is wearing a seat-belt or not is way out of my mortal understanding.
## CCTV cameras:
In the year 2014, as part of the ‘Safe Secure Shillong’ scheme, the State police started installing CCTV cameras in 28 locations including main commercial hubs of the city with a view to check the crimes. Rs 3 crore was embarked for both Shillong and Tura. The then S.P. said that Rs 2 crore has been allotted to Shillong alone. This has in a way indeed helped the state police to curb crimes in the city, however how did the railings in Khyndailad (Police Bazaar) disappeared and new ones had to be installed is still a mystery.
## Littering is now a crime on paper –
Davis N. Marak, the Superintendent of Police, East Khasi Hills had earlier issued an advisory that in pursuance of Section 110 of Meghalaya Police Act, 2010, all citizens are advised not to litter lest under Section 102 bear a fine of Rs. 5000. The sad part about Meghalaya though, everything looks good on paper. Just last week, a group of people I suppose has left their faeces or human excreta one on the lane, right opposite to the Secretariat and another in the bus-stop, opposite to Shillong Club and Iewduh will never forget to greet you every morning with beautiful atom bombs, too beautiful that it’s enough to kill your hunger. And as for littering, it’s getting worse by the day.
I apologize for criticizing, but if this goes on we will lose everything. We are losing our sanctity and greenery to garbage. Our rivers are lost, brooks have died. We saw a ray of hope in the Section 110 of Meghalaya Police Act but that too is just a façade. Seat-belts still hog the spotlight.
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The Rs. 2 crore could have been used more productively. Had it been used productively, by now we could have generated enough fine to install more CCTVs adding to that, we would’ve had a cleaner and healthier society by now.
There are many more productive ways of implementing laws and actually exercising it. SEAT-BELTS should be made mandatory but not to the extent of checking each and every driver whether he is wearing one or not. It’s like a teacher checking the copy of a student whether the child has finished the homework or not. If the police department is really concerned about the safety and well-being of the public, the above discussed issues are of utmost importance NOT THE SEAT-BELT.
DISCLAIMER: The opinion expressed in the article belongs to the writer and TNT- The Northeast Today may not subscribe to the same views.