Traffic congestion in and around the Khwai bazaar is the direct result of unsystematic and short-sighted character of the state’s planners, whoever they may be Transport Department or Traffic Police. No experiments can reduced the congestion in the said area, as proved by various experiments in the past, unless we are able to see certain things deeper and clearly. The present step so called ‘only pedestrian zone’ taken up by City Police and State Transport Department has resulted in untold inconveniences to the public. Inconveniences and suffering have become the faith accompli of our public, every developmental projects, traffic norms have brought inconveniences and lots of mental anxiety to the public rather than comfort and happiness. Take for instance the case of Sewerage Project, this project has given dust, unnecessary headache, anxiety and lots of inconveniences to the passers-by. In fact, either the State or the executing agency or both ought to compensate for all these unnecessary troubles meted out to public and for their undue delay in completing these projects.
Sometimes it is better not to disturb an existing order of things, if the disturbances or changes might bring more trouble and suffering than the status quo. It is absolutely vital to bear this thing in the minds of policy planners, more so when the outcome is unpredictable. The present step of ‘only pedestrian zone’, in spite of its stated objective of reducing traffic congestion in and around Khwai bazaar thereby giving breathing space to the public, only ended up giving more trouble and inconveniences to the public. Yes, it definitely serve a purpose that the current step called ‘only pedestrian zone’ will certainly provide free running space for all the babus, high ranking officers, state forces, army and paramilitary officials for they are out of the purview of ‘only pedestrian zone’ norm. What a joke ! What a mockery of democracy, rule of law and principle of equality. It is absolutely nonsense to make public suffer in the name of the public. In Manipur, a habitual tendency has developed among these officials/persons that they are above law and laws are meant for ordinary mundane called public and so called public also seem to have reconciled to this idea. It is a common sight and experience that all the said officials and babus violate traffic norms at their own sweet will, whether it is one way or no parking zone norm. They stop their vehicles right in the middle of the road, sometimes obstructing regular flow of traffic. Now time has come for our babus and law enforcers to obey traffic norms for it is meant for all and appropriate concerned authority to book those violators irrespective of their official positions. If the Indian democracy is not a casteist democracy and upholds equality of rights among all citizens as declared in its constitution, do not make Khwai bazaar an elite cluster zone. Make it a public space as it is meant to be. If certain norms must be followed, apply them to all with the inevitable exception of those officials who are absolutely necessary for enforcement of those norms and regulations.
It is important to trace out the reasons for traffic congestion or problem in the said area in order to draw up a sensible and suitable policy. Look around the Khwai bazaar, entire Manipur is here. Imphal city in general and Khwai bazaar in particular is all in one. Three important centres merged in the area. This area of Imphal is not only historical and cultural zone but also political and commercial capital of the state. All the important centres/offices such as Kangla, Mapal Kangjeibung, Governor’s Residence and Office, State secretariat, Chief Minister’s Bungalow, quarters of MLA’s, Judges, State Assembly, many banks (SBI, UBI, ICICI, Punjab National Bank, UBI, MSCB, AXIS etc.), are located within the three kilometre radius of this area. Besides, national highways pass right in the heart of Imphal city. Can anyone tell us, which modern city has the reflection of unplanned and unsystematic order as Imphal does today? All these have made the area an awkward mosaic, a zone of hell for all of us. Therefore we have here a city without planning. It is therefore no surprising to see that all roads lead to this point.
Moreover there seems to be complete lack of coordination between Transport Department, Town Planning Department, Imphal Municipality Council etc. This is clearly reflected in the rampant construction of buildings, hotels without any parking slot attached to them as done in the malls in metros. For instance Nirmala hotel, Classic Hotel, Gambhir Singh Shopping centre do not have parking slots. Moreover most of the banks and offices also do not have parking slots. It is undeniable fact that all of them utilise public roads as their parking area. This is a clear indication of how norms and regulations are being violated in the most blatant manner by those influential and super-rich proprietors of big hotels, private hospitals, shopping malls etc, etc. This need to be checked strictly and strict application of required RR is called for. Until mindset of the ruling babus and planners cannot see beyond this area, this area will never rest/free from congestion. More congestion and anarchy is the fate of Imphal city in the coming years if those at the helm of affairs do not learn to think pragmatically without further delay. No city on earth can bear the burden of such a conglomeration of important centres on a limited space of just around two square kilometres .
Some comments and suggestions
First, we must painfully concede that in Manipur, suggestions and comments are never meant for taking due considerations and accommodation but for throwing in the dustbin of offices. But until the policy planners take up certain radical steps and adopt a qualitative outlook, Imphal City and its core zone i.e Khwai bazaar area will soon become more congested, suffocating and unbelievable hell for its dwellers. A policy should be formulated not on the basis of intention but on the basis of findings after systematic, scientific and surgical research and surveys of the issue, problems and facts and materials surrounding them. It certainly calls for seeing and doings things beyond conventional pattern of doing things.
First step in this direction is the prevention of further concentration of malls, offices and shops in the said area and proper planning for developing new market areas as done in the metros. A city that does not grow and expand will certainly die. This unavoidable fact need to be understood and properly taken care of.
Secondly, politico- administrative centre including their offices should be shifted from the said area in and around the outskirt zones of Imphal area. If the State Assembly, Secretariate, Governor’s Residence along with offices, quarters and bungalow be shifted in suitable places of the Imphal area this would not only reduce traffic congestion but also decentralise development.
Thirdly, some of the important nationalised banks should be immediately shifted from the Khwai area in multiple directions in appropriate places so as to reach their services to various sections of the public. There is no reason as to why all the important and large banks should be located in and around Paona Keithel, Thangal Keithel and M.G. Avenue. It is another matter if their sole purpose is to serve those traders in the said areas more conveniently and not for the entire public.
Fourthly, the national highway 39 ( now NH 2) which passes right in the middle of the city’s core zone be diverted immediately.
Fifthly, IMC, Town Planning Department should strictly see to prevent rampant construction of buildings by enforcing necessary RR.
Sixthly, two pedestrian over-bridges should be constructed immediately at both ends of the flyover so as to enable pedestrians to cross the road without disturbing flow of traffic as well as avoiding risk for casualty.
Transport Department also equally need to work pro-actively to see that Manipur do not become dumping ground/destination for old vehicles as is being witnessed today.
Until such time we should stop doing things at ad-hoc and piecemeal basis, which only lead to untold misery and suffering to the public. As pointed above, if our policy makers and planners do not go beyond conventional thinking pattern, this city will never be free from congestion, traffic or otherwise and gradually it would die a suffocating death.
One more thing our policy makers and law enforcing agencies should always bear in mind is, the public are neither guinea pigs nor Imphal city a laboratory. Please don’t make another blunder in the name of solving traffic problems by adopting another hit and trial method. At the best, the new traffic regulations are nothing short of prescribing medicines without ever diagnosing the ailments. We would not talk about the result for it is there for every one to see. Let’s bear the pain, it’s only a trial !
This article was published in The Sangai Express on Sunday, February 19, 2012