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Opinion

Fleeting moments

September 23, 2017

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The gridlock: Fleeting moments

The traffic situation on the roads has turned so chaotic that only a miracle can cure it. A four-member team of Turkish experts visited Punjab’s provincial capital last February to study and recommend ways to streamline the traffic situation.

The team met various government officials and discussed traffic problems. It submitted its report and returned home. But there’s nothing to worry about. Another Turkish team is in this city these days to do exactly what the previous team had done: suggest ways in which we can set the traffic situation right.     

Why bother the Turkish trainers at all? Don’t we know what plagues our traffic system and why it’s in a state of turmoil? Most of our traffic problems are unique. What remedy would the Turkish experts suggest when a lawyer – custodian of the law – beats up a motorway police official for stopping him for violating the one-way traffic rule?

Furthermore, it was on the same day that a group of custodians of the same breed locked up a woman assistant commissioner in her courtroom and damaged the furniture. Many lawyers display ‘Attorney at Law’ or ‘Advocate’ on the registration plates of their cars. That, in other words, means ‘above the law, don’t touch’.         

Much has been said in the last few weeks about how the Turkish team of traffic experts will revolutionise our traffic system. But do we have the will to improve the traffic conditions that are getting uglier by the day? Take the case of oil tankers. One of the worst accidents occurred near Ahmad Pur East some months ago when an oil tanker fell on its side because of tyre burst and people gathered around it to collect the spilled oil as booty. Around 150 people lost their lives when someone lit a match and a fireball engulfed the scene.

Oil tankers have been regularly involved in accidents, mainly because they are not properly maintained. When such accidents started occurring more frequently, the government decided to act. The tanker drivers were asked to ensure that certain safety checks were carried out on their vehicles before plying them on the roads. The tanker mafia went on a strike and halted the fleets of tankers. As a result, the threat of gas stations going dry arose and the government had to give in. But accidents involving oil tankers haven’t ceased.     

News related to  accidents is treated as a matter of routine. Overloaded jeeps that plunge into rivers in up-country mountainous areas, killing passengers and tourists among them, are one such example. Foreign tourists who are looking for an adventure wouldn’t know that they were embarking on a perilous journey at the risk of their lives. The high frequency of accidents and government callousness towards them only shows how cheap human life has become.      

Recently, when traffic in Lahore was redirected because of the cricket match, car drivers and motorcyclists adopted ingenious ways to snake their way along the roads. Motorcyclists even rode through flowerbeds along the roadside to get ahead. They were in such a hurry to reach nowhere.        

While they are on the road, the motorcyclists tend to behave like the whirring wasps whose hive had been ruffled. What is most irritating is when they overtake from the wrong side, squeeze between cars to park themselves ahead of everyone on a red traffic light. They could easily be checked at this point if the traffic police wanted to check them. Trapped in such situations, many senior citizens behind the steering wheels feel exasperated and some even suffer from high blood pressure. Many road-users have started facing psychological problems.      

Until the government takes the traffic problem seriously, the conditions on the roads will not improve. Serious measures are needed to address the rudderless traffic situation. Starting an awareness campaign on TV, fining the errant drivers heavily and impounding their vehicles for a few days could bring the unruly traffic situation under control. This is only possible with effective policing that, at present, is non-existent – other than on the routes where the VIP movement takes place. The taxpayers also deserve safe driving conditions for themselves and their families.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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