If you want to commute in Ranchi, trust your stars, not electronic variable boards. After all, most of what starts with a grin in the city — think National Games stadiums, for starters — end in a grimace.
Popularly known as traffic display boards — the kind you see in stations or airports — the displays, a Rs 50-lakh project of Ranchi Municipal Corporation, were installed at 10 strategic locations of the city in July 2010 to give commuters real-time data on traffic jams and diversions.
Eight months on, none does.
The road construction department, which was entrusted to install the display boards and its software, had hired an agency for both jobs.
Strategic points were well chosen — Birsa, Hinoo, Kantatoli, Kutchery, Ratu Road, Station Road and Sujata chowks, Booty More, Main Road and near the SSP’s residence — some of the most congested and posh areas of the capital.
Had the digital display boards worked, they would have scrolled changing and useful data and solutions to commuters on crowded areas.
But only the one at Station Road Chowk feebly says: “Ranchi mein aap ka swagat hai”.
Display boards at Birsa and Hinoo chowks, during a test-check after installation in July 2012, were found suitable for visibility of written matter from a 500m distance. No one ever checked the boards to see if they received real-time data on traffic jams.
“The agency failed to deliver within the due period. In fact, the tenure to finish the project has lapsed. We have to float a new tender for the display board project, a process that will take three-four months,” said the department’s road construction executive engineer Umesh Prasad Singh.
Ruing over defunct display boards, traffic superintendent of police Chandra Shekhar Prasad told The Telegraph that they had been mounted to “give prior information on existing road jams and congestion probabilities”.
“We expected these would function smoothly to give Ranchi commuters some relief. Ranchi is a state capital, after all, and traffic amenities must keep pace with the times. Suppose a person wants to go to Kantatoli and she or he is at Ratu Road at present, the display board is supposed to highlight road conditions and guide the person towards other snarl-free roads. Unfortunately, all that didn’t happen,” he said.
He did not lay the blame on anyone’s door but only added what needed to be done.
“A control room is to be set up at the SSP office and the messaging system is to be activated via convergence through the Internet. People will be greatly relieved if the EVM boards start functioning,” Prasad said.
An official, who did not want to be named, was more candid.
“By the time a new agency is selected, display boards, at present gathering dust, will rust. So the department will have to float yet another tender to repair display boards. It will be a never-ending cycle and customers will get no respite,” he remarked.
Ranchiites, it seems, are used to promises gathering dust and rust.