DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 12:: Modi's jam

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A section of yesterday's jam
My wife and I had a horrid time yesterday. Aiming to get to an office-furniture shop we came out on the Sultania Road and, lo and behold, there was a jam. We did some stop-and-crawl and by the time we got to the Royal Market tri-junction we knew it was impossible to get to the Peer Gate area. Apparently a rehearsal was on for the PM’s cavalcade next day and the VIP Road had been closed to traffic. Hence, all the peak time traffic had spilled on to the Sultania Road. Worse, the road leading up to Imami Gate was blocked and we had to turn left and attempted going to Bairagarh.

 As we got on to the Sultania Road it was again a jam-like situation and later as we approached Lal Ghati everything came to a halt. While the down lane was stuck the up lane was crawling. Some enterprising drivers got on to the BRTS lanes and sped away. Never knew we had so many vehicles in this town. It was only 3 to 4 kilometres stretch and a few thousand vehicles were labouring up and down the two carriageways. Yes, it is the main artery that takes you to the newer areas from the airport but there are other roads as well which would have been suffering jams right at that time. My hunch to this effect was right as newspapers reported this morning.

Sitting cooped up in my compact vehicle I was wondering if only Modi-ji could be shown a video of the jam that was wrought in this town because of his mere four-hour visit for inaugurating the World Hindi Sammelan which is less of a Sammelan and more of a jamboree. Nine such Sammelans have already been held but they have done precious little for promotion of the Hindi language. Such conclaves can hardly promote a language. All that is, however, beside the point. The point is that crores of rupees are being spent in an effort that may not fructify but at the same time is inconveniencing hundreds and thousands of people who have nothing to do with it and may never be able to get anywhere near the  highly sanitised venue. Thousand of litres petrol and diesel were burnt, no not for the conclave alone, but by the vehicles idling on the roads in jams fouling up the environment. Most of our half literate drivers do not know that one needs to switch off the engine if the halt is of more than a minute.

Talking of jams, recently, the newspapers had published a photograph of a jam on the Delhi-Gurgaon 6 to 8 lanes expressway. It was unbelievable. In such conditions one wonders as to why people should travel at all unless it is for an emergency. Apparently, barring the new metro there is no public transport and commuters rely on their personal vehicles. In the North, however,there is also a tendency to show off and using public transport is, kind of, infra dig. Most cities in India have too many personal four-wheelers and commuters are prone to getting stuck in jams. The governments all over have failed in making available decent and dependable public transport. With rising incomes cars have become both, a necessity and a luxury – luxury in the sense that numerous families now have multiple cars, sometime having no space for them at home. Residential areas are clogged by parked vehicles. In the area where I live parked Honda City cars on the streets along with a few Mercedes and an occasional BMW is a common sight.


Coming back to the jam that we got stuck in, it occurred to me that our traffic policemen are pretty prompt in blocking roads for the convenienceof VIPs. It somehow does not occur to them that they need to be sensitive about the conveniences of the commuting public as well. It never occurs to them when a road is blocked the on-coming commuters need to be advised at all preceding junctions about the blockage ahead to enable them to take alternative routes saving for them inconvenience, time and gas. But this is what the traffic people always slip on. Their primary aim is to enable unhindered supersonic ride for the VIPs through the roads rendered empty by the blocked traffic.

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Photo: from the Internet
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