A medical representative who was stopped by police for riding a motorcycle without a helmet on James Long Sarani in southwest Kolkata’s Behala on Thursday pleaded with cops to spare him the fine of Rs 1,000, which is 10 times the earlier amount.
He said he had just landed a job after a spell of unemployment during the pandemic and that he was yet to get his first month’s salary. He did not have Rs 1,000 on him.
Several police officers this newspaper spoke to said they were flooded with requests from traffic rule violators to spare them the steep fines, which came into force on Wednesday.
Many cops on the roads said what looked like an ideal way to discipline motorists appeared difficult to execute.
“He was possibly telling the truth about his new job and he might not have that much money on him,” said an officer who stopped the medical representative.
“He kept requesting us to let him go and promised not to commit the mistake again. But I had to prosecute him. Since he could not pay the fine, I had to seize his driving licence.”
The man told the officer that he could get his licence released after paying the fine only after he got his salary. Which means, he said, he would have to travel by bus till then, something he has been avoiding fearing infection.
An officer in central Kolkata had a similar experience while prosecuting a yellow cab driver on Chittaranjan Avenue.
“He (driver) was not wearing the seatbelt. When I fined him Rs 1,000, he said the fine for not wearing the seatbelt was Rs 100. When I told him about the new rule, he started pleading for pardon saying he had not had enough trips yet,” the officer said.
Many in Kolkata did not take traffic rules seriously because of the paltry fines for violations. The police are hopeful that in a few days drivers and two-wheeler-riders would be aware of the revised rates, which are many times more than the previous ones.
The state government on Tuesday issued a revised penalty chart with increased fine amounts for offences under the Motor Vehicles Act, such as driving without a valid licence, riding two-wheelers without a helmet, dangerous driving and speeding.
Three traffic cops this newspaper spoke to said they were finding it difficult to handle two-wheeler-riders without helmets.
A biker without a helmet was stopped near Quest Mall for prosecution on Thursday afternoon. He accosted the officer, which forced the traffic team to seek help from the local Karaya police station.
An officer of the rank of assistant commissioner said the teething troubles of implementing the steep fines would be over with the spread of awareness about the new rates.
Another officer suggested the order should have been implemented a week later, after creating enough awareness.
The fines for some of the offences, like allowing one’s car to be driven by someone without a valid licence or driving dangerously, have been increased five times.
The fine for driving with an invalid licence was Rs 500. Now it’s Rs 10,000.
Earlier, someone caught riding a two-wheeler without a helmet was fined Rs 100.
Now the offender has to pay Rs 1,000 and forgo his or her driving licence for three months.
Earlier, a motorist caught racing was fined Rs 500. Now, he or she is fined Rs 5,000. For every consequent offence, he or she has to pay Rs 10,000.