Thursday, July 29, 2010

Traffic. No, really, this is RIDICULOUS!

This morning, driving to work at a more normal hour than my usual 1pm, I found myself stuck in traffic. Insane traffic. I travelled all of half a kilometre in 40 minutes. Really. Mind you, this wasn't technically rush hour, it was past rush hour - 1030am. Granted, it rained and everything falls apart when it rains, but for heaven's sake! All that road widening and we're still stuck in traffic as bad as it was when they were building the flyovers...

Anyway, there I was, sitting in standing traffic, unable to read my book, and cursed with racing the engine since Roxy's new trick is to protest stop and go traffic by dying if left in neutral after about half an hour. Once I finished swearing in six languages, I began to think of solutions.

The first one that came to mind was the good old, odd numbers on M, W, F and evens on T, T, S. anyone on Sunday. That's a little hard to implement, as is anything in Hyderabad, because well who's going to catch the people breaking the rule and fine them and not let them get away with a bribe? These solutions only work in internally panopticonised* worlds, and India is definitely not one of them.

Then I remembered those glorious two days when the call centre cabs were on strike. The roads were empty. I tried desultorily to google information on this, but I couldn't find any (BBot, DiscoDancer, volunteering?) so I'm going to say one third to half of the four wheelers on the roads in Hyderabad are owned by companies who provide transport to the multinationals who have their BPOS in the city, and spend their days transporting copious quantities of call centre workers to and from various points. These guys are hellions, and commit on average one traffic violation every ten minutes. How about if we averaged that to about two an hour and totted up the amount of money the city should be getting in fines, and imposed it as a tax on either the companies who run the cabs, or the ones who use them?

Half of that money could go STRAIGHT into upping the salaries of traffic policemen. That would give them some incentive to not accept bribes. One quarter could go into snipers who shoot tranquilizer darts at every two wheeler that commits a violation. Said driver will wake up bound and gagged somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Ok, ok, I'm kidding. Though I think we could also apply the average violation tax to two wheelers and autos... So, one quarter could go into infrastructure - drains, maintaining the roads, building pavements etc. The rest should go into building an overhead light rail metro.

Eventually, buses should become free, and taxes on other vehicles should be enough to run the public transport system.

Of course, eventually, global warming will end, as will war.

Till such time, I think I'm going to telecommute.

P.S. I forgot, if they banned municipal vehicles and staff on the arterial roads between 6am and 11pm it would help a lot. The pyschokiller garbage trucks are terrible, the street cleaning trucks are terrifying and nothing is scarier than making a turn to have to screech to a halt cos there's a little old lady in a visibility "vest" wielding hr broom.

*I actually think this is fascinating. I alway thought the idea came from Foucault, but I think I might be mistaken. However, I think that this Panopticon has been so neatly internalised in Western society that one would never dream of doing something wrong even if there were no witnesses, because we each have our personal prison supervisor in our heads. This is also why, of course, the honour system works, and cheaters have so much to win.


  1. Are you seeing the panopticon as a bad thing? I know Foucault sort of did... but if there's less chaos on the streets, I'd still go for it. It's not restricted to the West either, I'd say Hong Kong and Singapore are much more "panopticonised", especially the latter. Though it need not just be fear of punishment that motivates people not to break rules; it could also be a general social consent among the majority that this is the system that works best for all.

    In India, with regard to traffic policemen at least, I've become less strident about bribes. Because paying a bribe works as a deterant too... I always wondered why traffic cops in Hyderabad didn't enforce the rules more strictly and make some money for themselves as cops in Bombay do. Yes, it would be ideal if the fines went to the government and then trickled down to the cops... but it doesn't, so bribes are a more direct system I guess.

  2. oh no no the panopticon is the only sure basis for a stable society. especially modern society so crammed and crowded.

    bribes, here is my problem: the point of fines is to punish people for contravening a social contract, and act as a deterrent from making those violations. By this definition, yes it doesn't matter.

    I'm letting my objection to violating said social contract stay out of this.

    The other thing with fines is, they are a source of income, along with taxes, which many people evade in India. Those fines end up paying for flyovers, repairing potholes, building pavements, buying buses, etc. Granted, with corruption etc possibly half that money reaches its destination, if not less. Again, set aside the problems with corruption and suchlike. To have the kind of infrastructure one wants from a city, to have an MTR, you need the fines to go to the government, because the more that goes in, the more that eventually makes it way to the destination.

    That's why I always pay fines.

    They went through this period where they were writing down numbers...

    ok you know what, this is becoming another post.