Technology in the life of our Traffic cops – enduring extreme weather, pollution, lack of water and poor access to rest rooms.

“Ever wondered, how difficult it is for traffic cops to stand in the hot sun to manage traffic at signals? “Whether it’s sunny or raining. I love my work and I am not supposed to go away from the signals. But sometimes it becomes difficult to go to rest rooms.” – says Mrs. Nagamani, a traffic cop for 21 years posted at the Bangalore Traffic Police Circle at Madiwala. After 70 years of independence, road traffic is still not self regulated – even today we’re dependent on traffic cops at signals to regulate traffic.

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On any given day, one can see Mrs. Nagamani in a neat white and khaki attire of Bangalore Traffic Police, making hand signals and whistling amidst heavy traffic at the massively congested junction of Madiwala. Mrs. Nagamani in her mid-40s is a brave woman who in her 13-hour shift (8AM to 10PM) of duty, even in heavy rains or hot sunny days, is usually seen manning the busiest traffic signals, coping with pollution, dust and rash drivers.

“Maintaining traffic is an acquired skill, an art form which came after year of spending a lot of time on the busiest streets of Bangalore and dealing day in and day out with a whole lot of situations.” – shares Mrs. Nagamani who speaks to explain what the job means to her.

We asked her few questions about her life, duty, rules and ambitions, the challenges of being a traffic police, what technology they are using in their daily life and how technology can enable them simplify their job.

1.You have responsibility towards your family, running a home and also manage work which is outdoor. How do you manage all these?

“Yes! It’s difficult but not impossible. I have a 12 year old girl, I must get her ready for school in the morning and then reach work exactly at 8 o’clock in the morning, which means I leave for work exactly at 7am. I am able to manage all my responsibilities because my husband is very supportive and prepares morning breakfast for all of us at home.

2. How difficult is it to stand all day outdoors, sometimes in the hot sun and cope up with rainy days and regulate traffic?

“Whether it’s sunny or raining. I love my work and I am not supposed to go away from the signals. Most of the times it becomes difficult to go for rest rooms.”

3. What is the target that traffic police need to meet, in terms of cases per day?

50 cases every day. Most of the days it’s far beyond 50 cases as most of them break traffic rules.

4. What are the challenges do you face as traffic police?

“There are many challenges to deal with:
1.We need to know different languages as we come across people from different parts of the country.
2.We need easier access to drinking water, sometimes drinking water is the biggest challenge for us.
3.Patience should be there in our blood, most of the times drivers and riders tend to do mistakes, argue against the law and behave in very rude manner.
4.Sometimes weather conditions are extreme, heat, cold and rains are a challenge for us. There aren’t many shelters to relax or stand by. Using the restrooms becomes a challenge.
5.We work all seven days a week, sometimes we hardly get time to spend with our families.

5. What technologies do you use on day to day basis?
We are using PDA (Personal Digital Assistants) Blackberry system to recover pending fines. We were unable to recover around 70 per cent of E-challan fines due to incorrect address, change in ownership of the vehicle or violators refusing to pay willfully. With the introduction of PDAs we have recovered 60 per cent of the pending fine. A manual challan book will not have the violation history of the commuter unlike the PDA system. For example if a person was caught without helmet and an amount of Rs 100 was levied as fine through e-challan, the next time if the same person is caught the official will fine him Rs 200 as the history of the commuter is recorded in the PDA system. The integrated system has the option to swipe credit and debit cards.
We are also using walkie-talkies to contact the control room in the event of an accident or crime and seek immediate assistance. Walkie-talkie is an effective mode of communication and ensures that violators are booked on the spot. I feel technology can do much more than what it does today. Sensors, automatic traffic controller etc. can reduce the number of cops at the signal / junction, enable remote monitoring and make their lifestyle better.

6. What documents should a driver carry when driving?
Driving Licence, Taxation Certificate, Emission test certificate and Insurance certificate are required to be carried.

7. What is your Advice for the two-wheeler drivers?
Two wheelers occupy less road space, consume less fuel and hardly damage roads. But, unfortunately, there are many irresponsible two wheeler riders. For you and for other road users, two stroke engines are big polluters because of carbon monoxide emission. Keep your engine tuned. Driving can be pleasant if the rules are observed.

● Never over take on the left
● Wear a helmet for your safety
● Stick to the left lane and leave the right lane to fast moving vehicles
● Do not use horn unnecessarily
● Remember you are vulnerable – in any collision, you are more in danger than a car or a bus
● Give priority to pedestrians

8. What is your opinion to reduce traffic in Bangalore?
Bike pooling and carpooling is the best way to control traffic problem. This will reduce the number of vehicles on roads. This will help reduce the pollution, save time and fuel. I’d also suggest using public transport options like the Metro.

9. What facilities do you get from the government for your work? And what facilities, do you expect from the government?
Government is providing us raincoat, masks and stuff needed to fight pollution. She introduced me to Veerendra Babu, 26 year old police constable. He is the Junction cop who maintains traffic. He says, “We need at least 6-7 liters of water every day, government should take measures to solve water problem.” He even says, “We are in direct contact with pollution, Government could set up health checkup camps for us on regular basis”.

10. How do you think technology can assist you and make your life easier?
Firstly, she says, “Thanks to PDA and walkie-talkies that assists us”.
A sensor connected to our laptop which can sense up to 0.5 to 1 kms and detect drivers or riders violating rules like not wearing helmets, seat belts or if it can capture the images so that we can sit and monitor from inside the room, will be very helpful. This would reduce the need for standing outdoors in extreme weather conditions.
A software application which process all the data from the sensor and filters out the necessary data for spotting cases will be helpful.
A sensor which can sense the amount of traffic in all the directions, so that traffic signals can switch based on the density of the traffic, will be useful for citizens.
A small room nearby traffic signals as a shelter for us to monitor the traffic, will help us sit down when needed.
Software applications which help citizens pool their vehicles (bikes or cars) which will help reduce the traffic, will be valuable.

“We are celebrating 70 years of independence and our roads are still not free. It’s in our hand to make a difference.” – The Hindu

We had a great conversation with Mrs. Nagamani and Mr. Veerandra, understanding their challenges and what solutions can simplify their work life. We also wish, collectively as a society we follow traffic rules for the benefit of pedestrians, fellow citizens and traffic cops, so that road traffic becomes a self regulated affair. We believe with higher level of cooperation among citizens, there is no need to break traffic rules. What do you think?

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