Former CM Manohar Parrikar loved deadlines. He issued dates and deadlines with a flourish. What he seldom did, was stick to them, although he tried. The only time he stuck to a deadline was for the first international film festival, and it brought him wide respect.
The present chief minister, Pramod Sawant, rarely gives specific deadlines, but for once he has taken a risk. His government has announced that on May 22 Panjim and Porvorim will have a smart traffic management system. That means those speeding at traffic junctions, jumping red lights or riding without a helmet will be detected by smart cameras. The information will be sent to a control room in Altinho and an e-challan will be automatically generated and sent via SMS to the vehicle owner.
The system has been tested, and the first fortnight after May 22 will determine if it will work or if Rs 180 crore is about to go down the drain. It is easier to imagine the system failing after a month or perhaps six months because that is what usually happens in Goa.
The state’s experience with CCTV traffic management systems has not been particularly successful. Usually, cameras break down due to a lack of maintenance and, after a while, the police forget about it because getting the government to sanction funds for their upkeep is next to impossible.
So all eyes are on the new system, dubbed as smart and expected to make a huge change in traffic management. There is hope and trepidation. The ones who are hopeful are those who root for order on our roads. The ones who are trepidations are those who want to do as they please.
Part of the problem is that there is a lot of confusion over the purpose of the amber/yellow light. For instance, if you are moving, does the amber light say “stop” or “continue”? If you are stationary, it is obvious that the amber light means “remain where you are”, but some vehicle owners think it means “go”. There has to be some clarity about this first.
My understanding is that if you are moving towards a junction, the amber light means “stop”. If you are caught at the intersection then the amber light means “continue”. And an amber light after you have stopped for a red light means “stay put until the green light comes on”.
Second point: how is an intersection defined? At what stage are you inside the intersection? This is important because my guess is that the cameras will be programmed to take photos and videos based on this definition.
My understanding again is that the intersection is defined by the zebra crossings on the road. My experience is that most drivers don’t know this.
If the system goes online without first educating drivers, there is going to be a lot of heartburn, and in a place like Goa, this is enough to bring the whole system down because MLAs are accessible and are always on the side of the mob.
On the positive side, ever since traffic lights were installed in Porvorim, traffic movement has improved and compliance is very high. So you will start with a lot of drivers who are willing, waiting and wanting this system to work.
However, if they are antagonised, everything will come crashing down. So, those in the control room will have to be trained not to be dogmatic, but more inclined towards catching outright violators and overlooking minor driving errors. In other words, if you keep a large number of drivers on your side, this should work.