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Clutch casualty on chaos streets

Rachit Kumar’s car hiccuped to a stop near Albert Ekka Chowk, Ranchi, on an evening, after it grappled with a snarl for five minutes. He called his brother for help. A mechanic came and declared the clutch pedal dead.

A resident of Lower Chutia, the 40-year-old had bought his car four years ago. He drove routinely to Ratu Road, where he runs a study centre, via congested stretches such as Bahu Bazaar, Kantatoli, Lalpur and Circular Road. These jam-battered arteries had reduced the life span of his car’s clutch, the mechanic explained.

Like Kumar, there are a couple of hundred motorists who face such predicament every day on some of the busiest and bottleneck-prone arteries.

While some people’s troubles may not force others to think that bad traffic was hitting their favourite hot wheels below the belt, a paper tabled at IIT-Bombay on February 19 may give city guardians good reason to rethink on vehicle management.

The paper reads: “Vehicle maintenance costs, wear and tear on mechanical components such as clutch and brake is considerably increased under stop-start driving conditions. Hence, it increases vehicle maintenance costs.”

The Telegraph contacted some service centres in Ranchi to draw up a monthly average of clutch repair. Each centre said they received not less than 10 cases a day. These were mostly small cars that travel inside the city. The capital has around 20 prominent service centres. Going by their figures, around 200 clutches are repaired/changed every day, which also means no less than 6,000 clutch pedals burn every month and the most likely cause is traffic congestion.

Sudhir Oraon, service adviser at Basudeb Auto Limited in Kokar, said the clutch pedal of hatchbacks travelling within city limits wore out faster than other vehicles. “It hardly depends how old a car is. Here, we repair around 250 clutches every month,” Oraon said.

Mansoor Khan, another service adviser, added: “More the pressure on the clutch pedal, the more it burns. The best a driver can do is go neutral if caught in a jam or at a traffic light.”

The Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FJCCI) has offered some suggestions (see box) to traffic mandarins on how jam sessions can be reduced.

All traffic SP Rajiv Ranjan said was that they were “trying their level best” to improve the situation.