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Mumbai Police crackdown on drunk driving




India has a variety of problems relating to traffic management, such as overall bad conditions of road, not enough road capacity in cities, a variety of slow-moving and fast moving vehicles on the roads, and so on. One of the worst, observable by almost every person on the road, is the lack of following of traffic rules and laws. People feel that traffic rules are guides that can be followed or not depending on one’s wishes, and this attitude is reinforced by a very lax enforcement of traffic laws by policemen who catch drivers violating all rules.
People almost never stop before the zebra crossing, jump red lights with gusto, do not think twice about going the wrong side of the road if they can save a few minutes, speed limits are a formality, but by far the worst such transgressions are those where a person drinks and drives.
Drinking and driving is seen as one of worst offense that a person can commit on the road, since drinking (above the legal alcohol level) means that a person is no longer in full control of their senses, and as a result, is driving a powerful and heavy machine that can easily maim or kill. In countries where drinking and driving is penalized, a person caught easily loses their license to drive for some time, may have to spend a night in jail, and is on probation for some time after that. In India, incidents such as Salman Khan driving over people, Sanjeev Nanda driving over people when drunk happen; and these are the celebrity ones, there are many more that happen on a normal basis.


So far, the law was only on the books, but for the past some months, the Mumbai police seems to have taken this far more seriously. They have been catching drunk drivers, sending them to cool off a day in jail (recently they jailed the very first lady who has been caught like this for a day). Sample this incident which shows the crackdown, as well as the general attitude of people:

Keyur Parikh must have never imagined that the traffic police were actually tracking his movements, after a court suspended his driving licence in July for a period of six months for drunk driving. On Monday, the police caught 28-year-old Parikh outside Heera Panna mall, a stone’s throw away from his upmarket Tardeo residence, for driving without a valid licence. Parikh then started dropping names and threatened to summon his lawyer, hoping to get off scot-free. But the cops ignored his arguments and hauled him to the Girgaum court. It turned out that he had been booked for four other parking offences as well in the past.
“Nearly 9,000 motor driving licences have been suspended by the court since June last year. We had a hunch that some of these motorists might still be driving despite their licences being suspended. A list of 10-15 such drivers was prepared and we tracked their movements from their residence to their place of work. Our officers were armed with their vehicle registration numbers and photographs. Parikh walked into our trap on Monday,” said deputy commissioner (traffic) Harish Baijal.

This is another part of the whole problem. How many people have not heard of cases where people receive traffic citations by normal post, and tear it up without paying, since they are confident that the traffic system of generating these citations are not computerized, and that there is no major problem if they don’t follow up. I recently heard that the Delhi police head was talking about such a system; and the fact that so many years after computerization, availability of hand-held system, police still cannot check real-time whether a car in front of them (and its driver) have other citations against them.
However, one should be happy when things start working. In this case, I have been hearing of this drive for many months now, so this is not a campaign that starts, runs for some time, and then stops. It is only when people believe that they are in danger of getting caught, and they cannot escape either by paying a bribe or dropping some high names that there is some progress. Of course, educating drivers is also necessary, but without some enforcement, it mostly does not work.




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