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Panels four, chaos to the fore

Four committees in four years, and it still takes half-an-hour to cover half-a-kilometre by car.

Last week, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked his transport minister Subhas Chakraborty to constitute yet another committee to ensure the smooth flow of traffic in town.

A new seven-member panel was duly constituted, though almost all the recommendations of the earlier three committees have hit roadblocks.

The transport department had earlier set up three panels — the expert committee (in 2000), the special committee (in 2002) and the technical committee (in 2003). All three had identified the reasons for traffic congestion and submitted recommendations to ease the flow .

“The recommendations of all the previous committees are almost the same, but who will implement them and when'’’ asked a transport department official.

In its preliminary observations, the new committee, headed by public vehicles department (PVD) director H. Mohan, has identified some “major reasons” for the car chaos.

These include the usual suspects — traffic indiscipline, uncontrolled plying of three-wheelers, roadside bus termini, indiscriminate issuing of bus permits, roadside car parking, illegal plying of goods vehicles, bad roads, faulty and ill-maintained signalling systems, unmanned road crossings and encroachment.

“But if the government violates its own rules, how can results be expected'” asked a transport department official.

A few instances of the government flouting its own rules:

• 5,000 permits for autorickshaws issued in 2002, rejecting objections raised by police

• Regularisation of 5,000 illegal three-wheelers in 2003, under pressure from Citu, defying a government decision not to issue fresh auto permits

• Nearly 1,000 permits for buses and minibuses issued in 2003 without providing them with a terminus (mandatory under motor vehicles rules)

• Indiscriminate issuing of bus permits on particular routes without verifying the actual necessity

• Transport department fixed specific routes for autorickshaws. Defying the order, operators have fixed their own routes. A large number of autorickshaws are plying with ‘Citu permits’ in areas like Dum Dum, Lake Town, Gariahat and Jadavpur

• Despite several announcements, no programme was taken up to make bus drivers and conductors aware of traffic rules, and no effective steps were taken to enforce traffic discipline

• No steps were taken to repair the faulty traffic signals, and no spot visits were made by the minister or any of his officers.

“When I was PVD director, there were several occasions when instructions came from the higher authorities that certain things be done, even though they went against the rules,” admitted Prashant.

“As a bureaucrat, what option did I have but carry them out'” he countered.

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