Thursday saw the police traffic department squarely in the line of fire of transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, who blamed the mess on the city streets on some of the men in uniform. Friday found the traffic police returning some of the fire. Deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh, brushing aside the allegations, claimed that Calcutta’s roads were “much safer and better managed” than other cities’.
Quoting figures to back his facts, Singh said accident-related deaths were the lowest in Calcutta among the metros, and second only to Hyderabad among the country’s major cities. “The number of injuries in road accidents in a year is also the lowest among major cities,’’ added Singh.
The death count on the streets was pegged at 457 last year, compared to 475 in Mumbai, 500 people in Chennai, 820 in Bangalore and 1,696 in Delhi, rattled off the city traffic chief.
“Records reveal that 1,912 people were injured in accidents last year in the city, compared with 5,086 in Mumbai, 7,577 in Bangalore, 3,439 in Chennai and 3,020 in Hyderabad,’’ he added.
The traffic department had been quick to collate the flattering figures within hours of minister Chakraborty lashing out at a section of the force for not being serious about its job and failing to curb the car chaos.
Chakraborty had refused to shoulder any blame for the slow pace and poor management of traffic in the city, claiming that it was up to the police (with their “fleet of cars, walkie-talkies and manpower’’) to handle traffic better, without hiding behind excuses of a faulty public vehicular system.
Claiming that the statistics told the story, Singh said Calcutta has the largest number of pedestrians and the maximum jaywalkers. “We have 150,000 people walking on footpaths and spilling over on to the streets everyday,’’ said Singh. Also, the population (1.13 crore), is second only to Mumbai (1.19 crore) and Delhi (6 crore).
Without directly referring to the minister, Singh dismissed talk that traffic police do not take their job seriously. “They manage around 110,000 vehicles that ply every day through only 1,400 km of road space. Mumbai has 1.3 million vehicles on 1,850 km of road space and Chennai has 1,800 km for 1.3 million vehicles,’’ said Singh.
Defending his force, Singh claimed that the traffic department was hamstrung by lack of man and machine power. “There are officers who are forced to ride slow and dated motorcycles and jeeps. One can spot policemen in ramshackle vehicles on the streets every day,’’ he added.
Among the present problem points in traffic management, the deputy commissioner made special mention of the two major flyover-construction sites, one on AJC Bose Road and the other on Park Street. “Construction work is way behind schedule and they have blocked roads at important intersections and connectors, forcing several adjustments in traffic flow. Under such circumstances, how can the police ensure smoother flow of traffic'” demanded Singh.