When the new traffic warden initiative was launched by the Government of Punjab some years ago, it was thought by many (including myself) that the new wardens would finally bring ‘Change’ to the old system of traffic policing. They would be competent, professional and above all, friendly.
For a time, the plan actually worked. People reported that the new wardens were better than their predecessors. Most refused the usual bribe from people to buy their way out of a ticket. They also helped motorists on the road, such as pushing cars, replacing tyres of cars driven by ladies and so on.
Sadly, our typical traffic warden culture caught up to them as well. I had some recent experiences with them that finally changed my opinion about them. One of them is as follows, with which many of us can relate to.
I was coming back from the movies the other day on M.M. Alam Road, Lahore. The cinema is near a roundabout (Hussain Chowk). The road has no turning points except for the two roundabouts at each end, and taking a U-Turn is not allowed on them. There are signs placed forbidding this as well. If you have to take a U-Turn, you would have to go all the way over the roundabout into the opposite lane.
As we all know, our nation is a master of shortcuts, and many people ignore the sign and still make a U-Turn from there, where the Traffic Wardens wait for them with the ticket books ready. I saw a few Mehrans, Corollas and even some 660cc cars held up by the wardens in a short span of time. Nobody was allowed to go (and rightly so) without a chit. There were 3 traffic wardens with their bikes, busy in distributing violation tickets when the real event took place. An Audi came rushing from the other side of the road, did a mini drift on the forbidden U-Turn, and came to our side (of the wardens). The wardens saw this entire mini-series of Fast and the Furious, yet did not try to stop the car or even chase it. He (the Audi driver) was allowed to go just because he had an Audi.
Why this discrimination? Just because a person owns an expensive vehicle, does not give him the right to break the rules. Do the traffic laws of our country apply on the common man or relatively less expensive vehicles only?
The traffic wardens have a target of issuing a set number of ‘Challans’ every month, which they must hand out. What if people are ACTUALLY obeying the traffic rules? How will they meet their targets then? This is more or less robbing the motorists under protection of the law, much like the over-billing of electrical bills from the common man to ‘meet the targets’.
The traffic authority higher-ups are also to blame. They should be strong enough to withstand pressures from people of influence and defend their wardens. Wardens should have the liberty and power to even stop and fine the Prime Minister of Pakistan without fear of any consequences. The target system should be re-considered and should be based on fines on actual violations, rather than stacking on numbers. Even if the wardens have to hand over one Challan per month, they should be free to do so, without any pressure/fear from their higher-ups. A person driving a Suzuki FX or a Mercedes S Class should not be a concern for the Traffic Wardens; both should be stopped if they violate a traffic rule.
Only this way the working and service delivery of our Traffic Wardens will improve to acceptable levels. Otherwise, if you plan on deviant driving, better sit behind the steering wheel of a luxury vehicle.