By Siddharth Senthil Kumar
Bengaluru has more than 60 lakh vehicles on its roads, but the number of traffic personnel on the road? Just above 3000. The huge disparity between vehicles plying on the roads and the police manning them is too wide to be addressed easily, but citizen participation is often touted to be an important part of the solution.
Which is why, every morning at 7am sharp, homemaker Manju Mehra reports at the Graphite India Road traffic intersection to regulate traffic. She is a volunteer and makes no money out of regulating traffic at one of the busiest stretches in Bengaluruâ€™s IT corridor, and yet she turns up every day. She is one of the 850 citizen traffic wardens in the city, belonging to the Traffic Warden Organization (TWO).
Started in 1985, it was only a group of 10 enthusiasts who came together, recounts MT Naik, the chief of the TWO. â€śNow we also assist the traffic police during big events and occasions. Our volunteers are doing an excellent job,â€ť he says.
Members of the organization come from diverse backgrounds. From engineers and doctors to students and homemakers, every traffic warden is appointed directly by the city police commissioner.
For most of the volunteers, it is a call to duty. â€śWhat lured me into this was the problems government- school kids face while crossing roads on their way to school. It provoked me enough to join the organization. Many officers in my area motivated me, and the two years I have put in here have been fulfilling,â€ť says Manju.
For others, it is a way of making up for not being able to chase the dream of donning a police uniform.
â€śI have always wanted to wear a uniform since I left school, but due to certain constraints I could not make it to the public service. Fortunately, this idea of becoming a traffic warden fell into my lap and thatâ€™s when I thought I can now fulfil my dream,â€ť says Vidya Namboodiri.
They are volunteers, but they are not untrained. The city traffic police in tandem with the TWO, teach them to deal with traffic violations and high-volume situations. â€śTraffic wardens undergo the same kind of training given to traffic police personnel. A traffic warden has to work a minimum of 20 hours a month, else their subscription is cancelled,â€ť says Naik.
â€śWhen the situation gets really worse, the police teach us how to manage the crisis,â€ť says Samuel Henry V, Deputy Chief traffic warden of the Whitefield special division, adding that they are directed to educate traffic violators on the roads, â€śIf we find someone violating rules, we educate rather than punish. Teaching is the first thing that comes to our mind.â€ť
But this isnâ€™t an easy job. They have to put up with unruly drivers on the road, and also deal with instances of road rage. Most wardens end up paying out of their own pockets to be able to volunteer, unlike home guards, who are paid. In fact, they even have to pay from their pocket to stitch their uniforms.