In 1991, Congress PM, Manmohan Singh ushered in Economic Liberalisation and as a result of it, there was a sudden spurt in the number of vehicles as foreign companies, in collaboration with deshi companies, were allowed to manufacture and sell their vehicles in India. Following this, in Manipur too, roads have been expanded, flyovers have been built and traffic lighting system installed to cope with this ever increasing number of vehicles.
However, in spite of all these, heavily congested traffic bottlenecks began to mushroom in different parts of Imphal. Though traffic police made great efforts, traffic jams could not be avoided, especially on auspicious days when many wedding ceremonies take place.
These traffic jams cause much wasted much time for all commuters. As Priokumar Maibam, 34, a motorist says, “The place we used to reach in five minutes earlier, we now reach in half an hour”. Sometimes chaotic conditions were created, and there were also road accidents.
Nowadays, accidents, causing deaths are very common and frequent. Generally speaking, in a travel by scooter from Singjamei to Thangal Bazaar, it has now become the virtual thumb rule for the rider to have at least two narrow escapes from fatal accidents.
The wider the road, the greater the risk of an accident. Because motorists speed. But presently, there seems to be no speed limit stipulated by the authorities.
If the planned Imphal ring road and more flyovers are completed, traffic congestion may be decrease. However, without an efficient public transport system, one wonders if the problem may not return to square one, as the number of private vehicles will not cease to growing.
A junction which can hold just fifteen cars are hemmed in by thirty cars, with more than fifty two wheelers, and Lo! The great Jam. Jams are almost always very dangerous during occasions when state functions are held and the traffics have to be diverted. I was caught in the middle of such a jam once, with no space to move about, and in their effort to push through by any means, no one cared if they would end up causing injury or inconvenience to their fellow commuters. They just blare away their horns and squeeze their vehicles in whatever space ahead of them. I once had to even jump on the bonnet of an old car to save myself from being crushed under the same vehicle!
Though traffic police and the police have been working overtime, these snarls simply seem to refuse to go away. Blaring horns when everyone is stopping at the red light of a junction is becoming common for the motorist thinks he is more privileged than all else to move ahead. Sometimes, observing the proficiency of some driving their vehicles, one wonders whether this is a jungle of half-wild vehicles we live in.
If what some accidents from the outskirts of Imphal where there is less traffic had to say were to be taken seriously, the proficiency of many drivers in Imphal is certain doubtful.
But the serpentine roads on the highways connecting Imphal with Dimapur and Silchar, are, as Field Marshall William Slim comments in his book, “Defeat into Victory”, ‘most rickety.’ During the monsoons, driving on it, is almost a dice with death. The landslides, which also had recently consumed lives, and destroyed property, also add to the great risks.
Accidents, claiming lives, are becoming frequent on these highways which have been continuously upgraded. In December last year, 15 students were killed in a tragic bus accident in Noney district of Manipur, reminding one that safety cannot always be guaranteed on the highways and on the arterial roads of Greater Imphal.
The writer is a freelance writer and journalist