With an estimated 1 crore traffic rule violations predicted to be occurring every day in the city, the traffic department has their work cut out for them. Lack of long-term goals for the development of infrastructure, improper planning and execution of infrastructure projects and inadequate manpower to regulate existing traffic has made the situation even worse. DCP (traffic) Sarang Awad believes that traffic should be the primary issue to be addressed by candidates after the elections
Mid-day: What is your take on the current traffic situation of the city?
Awad: According to an estimate, with around 1,200 signals in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad area, there are about 1 crore violations of traffic rules occurring every day. Out of them, only 6,500 are reported in the city, and that too only after conducting city-wide drives on a large scale. The situation right now is not too bright, and to improve it, we need to give emphasis to traffic planning, rather than only regulation.
Mid-day: With mega township plans cropping up in suburbs, it seems that there is no attention given to address the future increase of vehicles on the roads. Shouldn’t the traffic department be consulted before sanctioning a project?
Awad: Presently, there is no requirement of a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the traffic department for starting a residential project. The PMC should contemplate about the future traffic load, especially on roads such as Sinhagad road and Nagar road in suburbs, before sanctioning these projects. Ideally, the traffic department should be consulted and I will definitely suggest to the civic body to make a police NOC mandatory before commissioning these projects.
Mid-day: What are your thoughts about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Pune?
Awad: While the concept of BRT is good, it has been poorly executed in the city. For the project to be successful, it should be implemented on the 36-km stretch between Kothrud and Vishrantwadi. Implementing it in patches will not bring any respite to the congestion. For the project to be fruitful, the bus frequency should also be increased, the PMC-appointed wardens should manage the actual traffic scenario on the BRTS routes and there should be proper bus terminals and pedestrian crossings.
Mid-day: There have been complaints about auto drivers overcharging or refusing to ply. Why is the traffic police not taking any action against them?
Awad: By law, we are not empowered to penalise auto drivers who overcharge or refuse to ply. We forward the details of the accused driver to the Regional Transport Office (RTO), after which their licences are suspended or revoked. However, for the common man, the delayed legal action does not benefit them too much, and hence it does not work as deterrence for the erring drivers as well. We will soon be sending cops in plainclothes to nab such drivers. Quick action and feedback to citizens about the action taken by the RTO can instil confidence in commuters.
Mid-day: Citizens were restrained from going to the pre-paid booths outside Swargate, Shivajinagar and Pune station, due to which the booths have now closed down, what is your view on it?
Awad: The entire functioning of pre-paid auto booths is with the RTO. Traffic police was deputed outside these booths as an extended assistance for the authorities. The situation outside the stations you have mentioned is bad. Some fly-by-night operators have become a major problem at these locations. We are thinking of a multi-pronged strategy to crack down on such auto drivers and will soon undertake a massive drive outside the bus and railway stations.
Mid-day: When will traffic congestion reduce on the Hinjewadi IT park road?
Awad: Presently culvert-work is ongoing in the area and we have made plans to divert traffic through Bhumkar chowk to reduce congestion. The traffic on IT park road is expected to resume in November, after which the congestion would be reduced.
Mid-day: What measures are being taken for pedestrian safety?
Awad: In the last 15 days, we have fined more than 10,000 people for halting ahead of the stop line on the zebra crossing. Recently we found out that almost all pedestrian signals on Sinhagad road were non-functional. It is definitely a sad situation, but we are working to improve it. We have also planned a ‘footpath clearance’ drive with the help of the PMC.
Mid-day: Do you think traffic should become an election issue?
Awad: Traffic is a sensitive issue, as it concerns the mobility of every single citizen, whether a beggar or a billionaire. Therefore, traffic planning is an important aspect for the development of the city, and should be stressed upon. At the pace with which the city is booming and extending in all directions, the issue of traffic should be highlighted in the elections, and every candidate should take up this burning issue.
Mid-day: What are your plans to reduce the number of highway accidents?
Awad: We have surveyed the 34-km Kivale- Katraj new tunnel stretch on Pune-Bangalore highway, along with officials of the National Highway Authority of India. We identified 80 locations where either the work has to be completed or improvements related to traffic engineering were needed. We have given a deadline to NHAI officials and instructed them that if they fail to complete the work they will have to take responsibility of every accident case reported on it. I am happy that most of the work has been completed and it is expected to be finished by the end of this month. About R10 crore was sanctioned to install signage boards recently. These measures will certainly reduce the number of accidents on this road.
—Mid-day panel included Salil Urunkar, Niranjan Medhekar, Priyankka Deshpande, Anuj Ismail, Kartiki Lawate, Shashank Sane and Shantanu Mohile