Students take part in a no-honking campaign in front of Modern High School for Girls on Monday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
Some drivers ignored them, some apologised and some were downright defiant, but school students who hit the streets for a no-honking campaign launched by Calcutta police on Monday were determined to make a difference.
Shivam Gupta of St. James’ School was happy that the no-honking placard in his hand did make a few change their mind. “A mother who had come to pick up her son from school was honking. When we approached her, she apologised,” said the Class XI student, who found cabbies, bikers and bus drivers to be the biggest offenders.
Not all were as lucky. Several of the cars leaving Belle Vue Clinic on Loudon Street seemed oblivious to the students lining the street, armed with no-honking placards. Honking is prohibited within a 100-metre radius of any hospital or educational institute but a paltry fine of Rs 100 is hardly a deterrent.
“Many of them were honking deliberately, as if to tell us the exercise was futile,” said Pranika Beria, a Class XI student at La Martiniere for Girls. “We had to raise our voice to make ourselves heard above the din of traffic and honking. Some who stopped to read the placard asked ‘why should we stop? What of the several others who keep honking?’,” she said.
The police, however, seemed happy with the result of the campaign that involved around 2,500 students posted at 100 locations across the city.
“We received good response to the anti-honking campaign organised by the traffic police along with schools,” said police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha.
“The idea is to create awareness,” said Dilip Adak, the deputy commissioner (traffic). “Greater awareness will also help us to enhance prosecution as people won't be able to say they didn't know the rule.”
Drivers often argue that honking is unavoidable in the city because of constant lane change and jaywalkers coming in the way of vehicles.
“When I am teaching in a classroom facing the road, I have to ask the girls to shut the window even if it is very hot. It’s easier to bear the heat than the noise. It is a strain to make ourselves above the traffic,” said Amita Prasad, the senior school head and history teacher at Modern High School for Girls.
The students who took part in the campaign also took home a lesson or two. “Whenever I am sitting in a car, whether it is driven by my chauffeur or my friend’s, I tell them not to honk needlessly. I have also asked cab drivers several times who often respond with a smirk but when I insist, they do listen,” Shivam said.
Some of the participating schools were La Martiniere for girls and boys, Modern High School for Girls, St. James’ School, South Point and Shri Shikshayatan.