No fine or bribe even after a traffic offence??!!

Metro Rail construction was about to start in our city. I was driving towards a customer’s office, near which an elevated station would come up. Traffic diversions had been announced a few days earlier, but changes had been made. Policemen, assisted by the Metro Rail construction personnel, were guiding motorists at the major junctions. I drove on my usual route towards my customer’s office since there were no ‘NO ENTRY’ signs. As I reached my destination, I was stopped by a traffic constable and asked to meet the police officer standing next to a police van a few feet away.

As soon as I reached him, the officer said, “You were driving in the wrong direction. You have to pay a fine of Rs. 500. Will you pay the fine now, or should I issue a summons?”

“I did not see any ‘NO ENTRY’ signs on the way,” I told him.

Without replying to my statement, the officer said, “Sir, please don’t waste my time.” Pointing towards 3 other persons standing there, he said, “These people are quietly paying the fine. Why do you expect special treatment? Tell me, will you pay the fine now, or should I issue a summons?”

Raising my voice a bit, I said, “Sir, at SBI on Gandhinagar Main Road, I took a right turn into Third Cross Street. At the end of Third Cross Street, I turned left on this road. There was no ‘NO RIGHT TURN’ sign on Gandhinagar Main Road, no ‘NO ENTRY’ sign at the entrance of Third Cross Street, and no ‘NO LEFT TURN’ sign at the end of Third Cross Street. If you can show me even one sign that proves I committed a violation, I’ll pay a Rs. 5,000 fine. If you can’t show me any such sign, you cannot impose a fine. Let’s go right now!”

The officer glared at me for a few seconds and said, “OK. You may go!”

Immediately, the other 3 persons asked the officer if they could also leave. He sighed and waved them away.

As we were walking away, one of the 3 persons asked me, “Sir, how come you spoke so confidently to the officer? Do you have any high-level contacts in the police?”

I replied, “I do have access to a couple of very senior police officers, but that’s not why I spoke to the officer the way I did. I had actually looked for the traffic signs that I mentioned. Since I could not see any of these traffic signs, I assumed I was driving in the correct direction. Even after he told me that I had been driving in the wrong direction, I spoke confidently to the officer because I genuinely believed that not I, the authorities were to blame for my driving in the wrong direction. I suppose you gentlemen had knowingly driven in the wrong direction, that’s why you were ready to pay the fine!”

(This post was originally published on Oct 05, 2013.)

Yes We Can!

HSK was thrilled! That morning, the HR Head had given him the letter, signed by the Managing Director himself, informing him that, in view of his excellent performance during the probation period, his appointment as Design Engineer had been confirmed!!

He was engrossed in his work when, a few minutes before noon, the MD entered the Design Department, looking very stern, and walked up to his table. “Good morning, HSK. I’m extremely upset with you,” he said. HSK was confused. The MD had signed his confirmation letter only yesterday. What had happened today? Why was the MD upset? Before he could say anything, the MD grinned and said, “This morning you received your confirmation letter signed by me, and you have not bothered to invite me for a celebration! Never mind, young man! I’ll invite you. Come on, let’s go out for lunch!”

HSK was on top of the world! He was sitting in the passenger seat of the MD’s BMW, while the MD was driving. The MD was like a king in this small city. The economy of the city revolved around his company. It was said that at least one member of almost every family in the city was employed by the company or its suppliers.

They were driving towards the exclusive multi-cuisine restaurant on the other side of the city. As they neared a junction, the traffic light changed from green to red. The MD applied brakes and brought the car to a halt.

A middle-aged traffic constable walked towards them. The MD turned down the window. “Good day, sir. Your car has overshot by about 6 inches. I’m afraid I’ll have to collect a fine,” the constable said. HSK was shocked! Was the constable insane? Didn’t he know whom he was talking to?

HSK got a bigger shock when he heard his MD reply, “That’s right, constable.” He opened his wallet, counted the money and gave it to the constable. The constable gave him the receipt.

HSK pinched himself to confirm that it wasn’t a dream!

***

This wasn’t a dream. It is a true incident that happened in Switzerland about 50 years back, narrated to me by HSK.

Can this ever happen in India? I believe it can. If many, many of us believe it can, and if we work hard and work persistently, we can surely make it happen! If it can happen in Switzerland, why can’t it happen in India?

(This post was originally published on Aug 20, 2013.)

Arm-twisting people for their own good!

A few days back, a friend commented that India must be the only country where two-wheeler riders wear helmets not to protect themselves but to avoid being fined by the police!

That day, and on a couple of other days, I made it a point to check how many two-wheeler riders wore helmets. I was shocked to find that less than 2 out of 5 two-wheeler drivers wore helmets, while no pillion rider wore a helmet!

Unfortunately, two-wheeler drivers and pillion riders do not understand that it is in their own interest to wear helmets since they protect them from head injuries. Hence, there must be some way of ensuring that they wear helmets.

It is clear that the police in most parts of India do not strictly enforce the rule that makes it mandatory for all two-wheeler riders to wear helmets. Is there some way in which we, as private individuals, do what the police should be doing without actually ‘taking the law into our hands’?

As I had mentioned in my post Does the red light mean STOP or not?, I rode a 2-wheeler for the first few years of my sales career. Despite the fact that it was not compulsory at that time, I always wore a helmet. Later, as a manager, I always insisted that every member of my team wore a helmet while riding a 2-wheeler. I ensured compliance by announcing that I would not authorise monthly fuel reimbursement vouchers of those persons who did not use a helmet every working day. Most people complied willingly. Some persons resisted, but eventually complied.

I believe that each one of us can act similarly without much, if any difficulty.

First of all, each one of us must wear a helmet when (s)he drives a two-wheeler or rides pillion. Secondly, we must use friendly arm-twisting to make our employees, juniors and children wear helmets when they ride two-wheelers. Thirdly, we must try to make other two-wheeler riders known to us aware of the need to wear helmets.

We may think that doing this may make us unpopular with the people around us, but I know from experience that most people eventually realise that they were arm-twisted for their own good!

Related posts:
Which is worse: a badly damaged helmet or a badly damaged skull?
Law-enforcers and law-makers, or law-breakers?

Law-enforcers and law-makers, or law-breakers?

The following figures were reported for traffic violations in Pune from January 01, 2014:
Cases registered:
Helmet violations: 22,140
Seat belt violations: 70,989
Signal jumping: 1,24,995
Riding triple seat: 11,364
Total number of traffic violation cases: 6,84,692
Total fine collected: Rs. 7.67crore

From these figures, it appears the Pune traffic police are sincerely trying to ensure that the citizens of Pune follow traffic rules.

However, Mid-Day, which reported the above figures, also reported that, on November 11, 2014, around 300 police officials were seen visiting the Commissionerate on Pune Station Road without wearing helmets (on two-wheelers) or seat belts (on four-wheelers) that the traffic police has deemed mandatory for all. However, the traffic cops did not fine them, but simply denied their vehicles entry inside the premises.

The Mid-Day report adds that, once the news of this ‘action’ became known to other police officials, several had found a way to bend the rules. Those who had helmets were made to wear them as they turned up at the Commissionerate gate. Officials who did not have their own helmets simply borrowed helmets from others just to pass the traffic cops. In fact, some of the policemen kept a few common helmets at the gate itself, which were then recycled amongst all those who needed to enter the Commissionerate. The helmets were immediately removed once they were inside, and promptly sent back to be used by other cops.

What about our law-makers? The Times of India reports that Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways rode his two-wheeler in Nagpur without wearing a helmet on October 25, 2014. The report adds, “This is not the first time Gadkari was seen driving helmetless. After winning the Lok Sabha elections, he was driving ‘triple seat’ and recently a TOI reader shared a photo of him, his wife Kanchan and granddaughter on a scooter coming out of an ice-cream parlour.”

How can laws be implemented when our law-makers and law-enforcers are law-breakers themselves?

Don’t we see this in our homes and workplaces as well? Parents expect their children to follow certain dos and don’ts that they themselves do not follow. Teachers have one set of rules for their students and another set of rules for themselves. Bosses expect their juniors to follow rules that they themselves break with impunity.

Isn’t each one of us guilty to some extent?

Where and with whom should the change begin?

What happens when people speak up?

On September 15, 2014, PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) Flight PK-370 bound for Islamabad was delayed at Karachi for over 2 hours ostensibly waiting for the arrival of former Interior Minister Rehman Malik of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Dr Ramesh Kumar Wakwani, a National Assembly member of the ruling PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz).

According to Mid-Day, when Mr. Malik and Dr. Wakwani finally came, the passengers stopped them from boarding the aircraft, shouted at them, and booed and ridiculed them.

PIA has clarified that the delay was due to a technical issue and not because of the politicians. Whatever the truth, the point is the passengers spoke up when they thought the powerful politicians had caused the delay, and the politicians had to retreat in the face of citizen power!

DNA reports that, earlier the same day, in Vasai, a suburban town north of Mumbai, a motorcycle rider was confronted by the police for entering from the wrong side of a road. When the young man refused to furnish his Driving Licence, and further challenged the cops who were also allegedly parked on the wrong side of the road, a police officer started misbehaving with him. As can be seen in the video clip below, the young man stood up to the police officer. The people around vocally supported the young man, forcing the police officer to be less aggressive. Had nobody supported the young man, one can be certain the policemen would have beaten him mercilessly.

We would be naïve to believe that there has been a drastic change in the behaviour of politicians and policemen or that politicians and policemen will bow down to every protest against their high-handed behaviour. However, we can be certain that people can make a difference when they speak up.