Not only ostriches have their head in the sand!

Ostriches are, of course, those large birds in South Africa that, when faced with danger or a seemingly insurmountable problem, avoid it by burying their head in the sand. Well, seems like ostrich like behaviour is very much in vogue here in Chennai. Problems that seem obvious to everyone don’t seem to obvious to the powers that be- hence the reference to the above. Take the Hindu’s recent article titled ‘Wanted: a vibrant mass public transport system’. The argument put forth in the article was, of course, on the need for reliable, affordable, safe, comfortable, fast and well-connected mass urban transit systems. There is no denying this, and the state government has made a beginning with a plan for two lines totaling about 40 Kilometres with 40 stations that will fan out along the arterial roadways.

It is another section of the article that I allude to: ‘In a city with a workforce with growing purchasing power, cars and two-wheelers are becoming indispensable. Every day, close to 500 new vehicles are registered with the Regional Transport Authority in the city and its suburbs. At a recent seminar on “traffic planning for the metro,” Joint Police Commissioner (Traffic) Sunil Kumar summed up the state of affairs: the vehicular population has grown from 5.44 lakh in 1981 to over 18 lakh today; road space, meanwhile, has not increased proportionately; and there is no reliable public transport system’.

It’s the next line that’s a clincher: ‘A cursory glance at the numbers might point to a traffic problem’. MIGHT point to a traffic problem did you say? How could that be! What traffic problem? The roads are only choking on nearly four times the number of vehicles of twenty five years ago on roads that have not increased proportionately. With drivers who don’t have a clue what the traffic rules are, and traffic police who seem incapable of ensuring discipline on the road. Where the vehicular population’s growth has been staggering in the past, and will accelerate in future. So is the only solution mass urban transit systems that will take five years to complete? With our track (no pun intended!) record on the MRTS, one can safely double that number of years.

What will happen in the meantime? Complete anarchy? Tens of thousands of lives lost, even more maimed? Isn’t it obvious to the police that they have to undertake, ON AN URGENT BASIS, educating the public about road rules? And why it’s important to follow them? Instead of driving as they please to everyone else’s disadvantage and danger?

Why is this so obvious to those who use the roads everyday, and not at all to the traffic police?


7 Comments so far

  1. JoeV (unregistered) on March 30th, 2007 @ 2:22 am

    Nice Article!
    Long term infrastructure planning is not one of our best qualities. Everybody wants to make a quick buck . Even the politicians who have control over all transport/communication infrastructure want to influence the public by cheap schemes like Rice for 50np and televisions for Rs.20. There is no point in blaming them. Thats how our system works. We are used to it. And most of us take it for granted!

  2. david (unregistered) on March 30th, 2007 @ 7:31 am

    Thanks for the comment Joe. The problem is, if we take the conditions around us for granted, the pressure to improve will not exist. Its important to be able to exert positive pressure for our city to improve. Chennai is a lot better than twenty years ago dont you think? So its not impossible. Some things, like better road discipline, are not just nice things to do-they are vital. Because so many people are dying or being crippled for life because of unthinking or selfish behaviour on the roads.Unless something is done urgently, its only going to get worse.

  3. neoflys (unregistered) on March 30th, 2007 @ 10:21 am

    Without any doubt Chennai Traffic cops are the best in the Country. May be all cops are not corrupt free but most of them do they duty very well. And we should appreciate the good work they are doing for years now.

  4. Planemad (unregistered) on March 30th, 2007 @ 11:39 pm

    Heres an approximate map of the metro alignments
    Combine that with some east-west monorail corridors and you have a winner.

  5. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on March 31st, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

    “Even the politicians”, Joe?

    Quite a lot of the problems begin with the politicians who are only interested in their own popularity and wealth, and putting a buck in the pockets of their relatives.

    Free televisions? How about the drainage and the mosquitoes?

  6. david (unregistered) on March 31st, 2007 @ 9:53 pm

    Planemad, Thanks for the map with the approx route of the two metros. Didnt realize one would come down the Kotturpuram Road ton Sardar Patel Road near IIT, then turn right. These are good routes! The planning is good, but the problems usually lie in delays in the execution. My point was more to do with the police educating the us on what is expected of us on the road so that everyone is on the same page. Right now its a free for all.

  7. K M Ashraf (unregistered) on April 8th, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

    Well you guys in the news, print, broadcast media really doin’ anythin’ about it?
    How many people have access to blogs?
    The vast majority don’t!
    I see advertising driven shows on television that are busy promo’ing ever more expensive ‘fast’ cars and bikes. But no word of the abysmal traffic conditions, bad driving, (squeal) NO!, lawlessness on the roads.
    I really don’t see any of the influential media/advertising outfits or the ones who sell these ‘killers'(vehicles) to ‘killers’ (drivers) doing anything about it. They’re only interested in selling (include advt. agencies)and making a profit. So what if 1.2 million or ten times that no. out of a population of over a billion get killed, injured, maimed and loose their productive and earning potential.
    The majority of drivers/riders have no idea of how to use (road rules) roads, let alone drive ‘considerately’. Even pedestrians are put at enormous risk by reduced or non-existent pavements, pavements usurped by vendors and shop owners. You are be forced to ‘jay’ walk on the road to only be knocked down by the speeding two wheeler negotiating his way between the bus, bus stop and pavement. He just wants to ‘get ahead’ you see! The ‘new’ way of life in our country.

    The latest is if you are on our roads you could get killed not only by maybe terrorist bombs but also by wayward/errant merchants of explosives.
    Callousness is a way of life out here.
    People care only about themselves, we may rant and rave about the ‘conditions’ but none of us are willing to take time off and kick some ‘ass’. ‘Cause we might get our ‘ass’ kicked, or worse get ‘knocked’ off.
    It is I think about time we did! Risky though it may be.

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