The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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State jumps traffic signal, okays autos

The green light has been given to greater traffic congestion. At a meeting on Friday, the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) decided to issue fresh permits for 2,000 auto-rickshaws, ignoring strong objections from the traffic police.

The RTA intends to issue more permits in the second phase in response to the pending applications.

The RTA’s decision has evoked strong protests from the traffic police. According to sources, deputy commissioner of Calcutta Police M.K. Singh, who oversees traffic and is also a member of the RTA, pointed out at the meeting that issuing of fresh permits for auto-rickshaws would be a “blunder” as it would lead to greater chaos on the city roads.

Singh urged RTA chairman Prashant, director of the Public Vehicles department (PVD), to rethink the decision. “Let us instead try to convince the government about the need for restricting the movement of auto-rickshaws in the city to ensure smooth vehicular movement,” he told the meeting. The traffic police chief said he did not mind auto-rickshaws plying in greater number in the suburbs, where fewer modes of public transport operated.

However, the RTA chairman overruled the objections and passed the order issuing fresh permits. “It is not the PVD’s decision. We have been directed by the transport department to issue the fresh permits and only the state government can change the order,’’ Prashant reportedly told the traffic police chief.

In December 2002, the transport department had asked the PVD to issue permits for three-wheeler operators whose applications were pending. According to PVD officials, such applications numbered around 5,000.

The government order has created a furore in different circles, especially in the traffic police department which has to bear the brunt of public anger over traffic congestion.

Singh said he was surprised by the transport department’s decision not to consult him on the crucial issue. “I have been telling the transport department to ban plying of auto-rickshaws, which are mainly responsible for traffic jam. But my repeated pleas have gone unheeded. A large number of permits for buses and auto-rickshaws was issued in the recent past, keeping the traffic police in the dark. But the tragedy is that the traffic police is generally blamed for traffic chaos,’’ Singh stated after the meeting.

Singh met his departmental officers shortly after attending the RTA meeting and expressed his dismay over its outcome. “The DC, traffic, was included in the RTA committee to ensure better co-ordination between the transport department and the traffic police. If the view of the traffic police is not taken into consideration, there is hardly any point in remaining in the committee,’’ he is said to have told his colleagues.

The deputy commissioner said he would soon submit a report to the commissioner of police on the matter, seeking guidelines on controlling auto-rickshaws which are playing havoc with the city traffic.

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