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First Cop speaking....

Road safety? Bah...there are sneers aplenty and sarcastic comments from all sides.

The indelible impression of the Indian police in the minds of the public is that they are hostile, harsh in speech, arrive last at the scene of action and at times display laughable asininity.

Of course this is a filmi caricature but has left a mark on the minds of the public. They refuse to believe otherwise.

In this set sensibility the genial, suave, man of the moment, City Police Commissioner Y. Anil Kumar faces an uphill task. More sinned against than sinning, Mr Kumar says, ''Most people have an impression of the police not from first hand encounter. If and when that happens they will change their opinion. For no reason, they reject us,'' he says sounding wistful.

At the helm of our city's enforcement task force, the commissioner speaks candidly of the hurdles he faces to keep the city alive and kicking and the roads safe, motorable, bikeable and walkable.

``If we want road safety we need the 3Es-Structural Engineering of Roads, traffic related education and enforcement. The third is my domain and it is only 33 per cent of the whole scene.''

Attending to the roads as they are and not as he wishes them to be the police face an additional 30,000 vehicles on the road every year. ''There is no system of phasing out as such.'' Hence this continuous growth in vehicular population and no proportional growth in roadways is the basic cause for traffic congestion and accidents.

``Yes, better roads can definitely avoid accidents and better enforcement of laws too but an overall view has to be taken.''

He appreciates the role of traffic wardens who have their own limitations and agrees that parking remains a huge problem.

Citing the example that parking in city centers anywhere in the world is prohibitively expensive he says that it will eventually come to our city as well!

A strict vigilance on the reckless buses is kept as the number of punching cabins (checkpoints for the time taken to reach destination) has increased on roads. The unofficial collection `Batta' between bus owners and drivers is a menace but the enforcement is alert on this front. Surprise checks for over speeding, checking for validity of the documents, drunken driving, traffic assistance have brought down accident figures.

Fatal accidents figures in the city have dropped from 11 to 7 from December to February and non fatal ones by 50 per cent. (Casualties Dec-429:Feb-258). Using IPC 279 directly as a preventive has helped tremendously to check accidents.

The Traffic Control Room at Vytilla junction is a welcome service. After a tie up with Kochi F.M, one is forewarned over radio about traffic snarls.

``I failed my driving test in Bosnia,'' Mr Kumar says as a matter of fact and here it is so easy to acquire a driving license. The malaise of faulty driving begins in the driving school.

The biggest charge levelled against the city police is of turning a blind eye to hawkers who obstruct pedestrians on footpaths, thus spilling walkers on to roads.

The commissioner defends this stand, saying that where vendors pose a menace to traffic, the enforcement measures are strict but in areas where they do not hamper traffic, they are allowed to trade.

The reason being that hawking is their livelihood and uprooting them without an alternate means driving nearly 20 per cent people to crime.

Displaying a sensitivity, which is rare in police circles, the Police Commissioner could do well with some public support.


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