The Telegraph
Friday , July 13 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fresh hands for safer roads

Eighty youths got inducted as traffic volunteers by Calcutta Police in a programme sponsored by Hyundai in Sector V.

Hyundai has been sponsoring these youngsters for the last five years and some of the 80 inducted are serving since then. At the event, IPS Dilip Bandopadhyay handed over the ID cards to the youths and they took an oath to fulfil their duty without fear.

“I serve at Shyambazar five-point crossing,” says Subhojit Sana, who has just finished graduation and is pursuing a course in graphic designing. He is a student by day and traffic volunteer by night. “I’ve been assisting constables and sergeants and learning a lot about management.”

He cites examples of how to disperse traffic smoothly, such as turning the traffic light on blinker and manually guiding cars with hand signals. But they also face challenges. “The local boys are the toughest to manage as they are not ready to listen to anyone,” he says.

Sangeeta Das, posted at Park Circus seven-point crossing, has the same complaint. “But we have been taught to behave politely with the public. We have to smile even if they are ill-tempered,” she says.

The youths have to serve in either of two shifts — 8.30am to 11.30am or 5pm to 8pm — and are paid Rs 1,500 a month. For many of them this pays their college or school fees. The prerequisite for this job is an NCC background and being a student, between the ages of 18 and 25.

The students say the job is very satisfying. “Elderly women bless us when we help them board buses,” smiles Kusum Khatun. “Once a lady was crossing the street while speaking on her mobile and got knocked down by a fire engine. We rushed her to hospital. It feels blessed to be able to save a life.” Kusum is also tired of correcting helmet-less riders. “They hide behind buses when they see us,” she laughs.

Another perk of Kusum and Sangeeta’s job is celebrity spotting. “We’ve seen Shah Rukh Khan and Mamata Banerjee,” giggle the girls.

But attrition level is high. Suranjana Birla, of Axiom Advertising, is in charge of recruitment of the students and she says absenteeism is a problem. “They quit if they get better jobs or if they simply dislike the nature of the work. They get paid leave if they have exams,” she says, adding that the police trains them for 15 days before they hit the road. Thereafter they get refresher courses every three months.

“This programme is part of Hyundai’s effort to make roads safer and to minimise traffic rule violation,” said Arvind Saxena, director, Hyundai Motors India.