Ayan Acharya and Neha Jain
The din of vehicles honking and revving is a common sight on the streets of Bangalore. Traffic in the city moves at a snail’s pace, as two-wheelers, four-wheelers and pedestrians jostle for space on the congested roads. The menacingly tangled intersections are a nightmare for the citizens,but for the consortium of engineers, software architects, businessmen and housewives with the city’s Traffic Warden Organization (T.W.O), it is an opportunity to do their bit for society.
In order to assist the local Traffic Police burdened with the enormous surge in the volume of vehicular traffic, the Bengaluru City Police Traffic Warden Organisation came into existence on August 30, 1985. Since then T.W.O has shared the duty of traffic control with the Bangalore Police, exhibiting an effective consolidation of traffic awareness and social responsibility.
“Mr. Ajai Kumar Singh, the then DCP, Traffic Police, had the foresight to promote public participation in police activities. He believed that if the public told the public to maintain decorum, people would listen. That is how the path for T.W.O was laid out in the city”, said Dr. K. Mohanan Nambiar, Additional Chief Traffic Warden, Bangalore.
“Although we started with only 13 active traffic wardens, the number of ‘active’ wardens has (now) increased to 400 in Bangalore”, added Dr. Nambiar.
Asked about the duties of a Traffic Warden, Dr. Nambiar explained: “As an organization, we put emphasis on enforcement and education. Enforcement is largely about dispensing road duties, while education involves going to different schools and making children aware of the traffic rules and regulations. We act as facilitators between police and public.”
Most people joining the T.W.O are working professionals, who often have to juggle multiple roles. Given the strenuous nature of their work, are enough people volunteering for this noble task? “We believe in the motto-Each one, bring one more. Generally, those who are interested get in touch with us. The last two batches were really good. In fact, we just reported a batch of 53 people,” Dr Nambiar said.
As part of the selection process, the volunteers are vetted based on a ‘strict interview’, and those who have ‘the zeal to devote at least some time to the public’ are chosen. The selected candidates then go through a day-long training, and once their uniforms are ready, an oath-taking ceremony ensues in the presence of the the Commissioner of Police, Bangalore city.
For units raised on a mixed basis, incorporating people from all religions, communities, and class, the traffic wardens do not have any ‘statutory powers’. They can only advise the public, and if amicable talks do not yield the desired results, the nearest traffic police are immediately contacted and due action is taken.
What is it like to be a traffic warden on ground duty, braving the ominous stream of vehicles while manning the ever-clogged roads?
Mr. Anwar Zaki, a businessman and traffic warden overseeing the Esteem Mall junction, says: “The passers-by are curious and ask if the traffic police uniform has been changed. There are very few people who know the traffic rules, so they listen to us. We are required to clock four hours a week, but there have been days when we have worked longer hours (during the Aero-show and Ganesh chaturthi).”
But for Mrs. Jaya Ananthkumar, a housewife, this work is a way of, “giving back to society because I have been abroad and have seen how disciplined is the traffic there. I want to see if we can bring the same discipline here.”
She adds a caveat: “People want to follow the rules, but don’t, mostly owing to paucity of time and a herd-mentality: Somebody else breaks the law, so it is okay if I also do so.”
The duty of a traffic warden is a thankless, selfless job, taken up voluntarily by a select few who wish to make a difference on the streets that are a busy city’s preferred lifeline. And they do it with an infectious smile, and an unflinching dedication.
So, next time you cross them on your way, maybe you can stop and say ‘thank you’. They deserve it.