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Where are the rules for public safety?



DANGEROUS MOVES: This ancient truck with a terrifying load, tottered, spluttered and finally gasped to a standstill in the heart of Dimapur town’s busiest traffic intersection today, Friday, around 1PM. The transport was so excessively loaded that its carriage and rear twisted to one side, offering a tragic outcome to passing vehicles and public alike. The concern is over allowing commercial vehicles – that too overloaded ones – to ply in central public commercial areas in spite of the existence of prohibitory traffic penal laws.  (Photo/Caisa Mao)
 
At around 1:00PM at the City Tower intersection in Dimapur today, a battle-scarred, ancient machine that looked somewhat like a truck, almost breathed its last – this centuries-old heap of rusting metal was so terrifyingly overloaded that the shock suspensions of its rear wheels had collapsed; its carriage had split open thanks to the unimaginably heavy cargo (possibly cooking oil) it was carrying. The load was obviously in extreme that the carriage and rear of the truck (see photograph above) had twisted to one side – leaning precariously just a tip away from rolling over.  
Welcome to Dimapur city, the city with the ugliest traffic in Nagaland – an urban jungle where mob-haired boys celebrate their testosterones in renegade Pulsars; where high government officials and ordinary citizens alike plot and scheme to outrun each other on single lane roads; where auto-rickshaws are as irascible as psychotic Indian taxi drivers in New York; where helmets are not worn by the riders but the bikes themselves; where pitifully ancient, spluttering and farting metal contraptions disguised as trucks prowl every road and residential lane. Dimapur’s traffic: a traffic where the rule of the game is not about safety but apathy – apathy to both life and society.  
The overloaded, dying truck at City Tower is a good instance of the tiresome cycle which the traffic administration and citizens endure every day in Dimapur. Had the cargo of the ancient truck split open or rolled over when vehicles or citizens were passing by, another sad statistic would have been added to Dimapur’s increasing road accident index. The truck with the edible oil is just one glaring instance of the almost-usual perils that the streets and roads of Dimapur offer. In 2011, Dimapur record about 41 road-related deaths – the highest in the state yet.
A traffic office officer said on condition of anonymity that cases such as the overloaded truck, are offenses and punishable. “Yes, we fine them and serve warnings. But we can do only so much. We try our best but we need manpower. We cannot always be there in every place and spot at the same time.” The manpower shortage in Dimapur has been one of the biggest worries for the city. In fact the extent is such that police personnel and District Executive Force Personnel have also been called in to man traffic points to monitor the crazy, overloaded or “old” transports in central public areas and the dangers they pose.  
The officer admitted that the manpower is not the only headache the Traffic administration has had to content with – one reason why overloaded trucks even in public places move freely in the city. The traffic authorities need tangible technological aids to confront cases such as the stranded truck. Overloaded commercial carriers are banned in central public areas but in Dimapur (or perhaps elsewhere in Nagaland) there is no apparatus for the authorities to determine the difference between ‘loaded’ and ‘overload.’ In fact the official put it in a hilarious way: “We depend on eyesight – you look at it and if you feel it is overloaded, then we fine them.”   
This is for readers’ note that under the traffic offence penal (MMVR 93 (u)(i) 177 MVA and 29 RRR 177 MVA) Overloading a goods’ vehicle or carrying goods in a dangerous or hazardous manner, a penalty from Rs. 2000 plus Rs. 1000 for every additional ton up to imprisonment and/or fine of Rs. 3000 can be imposed on the truck driver/owner.
Almost all the states in India have State stipulations that public transport and goods vehicle of more than 15-years are to be taken off roads or face action. In Dimapur such an order seem almost unheard of.
Another police official from the Dimapur administration said he ‘heard’ about the stranded truck and the chaos it caused. It is understood that the goods were unloaded from the truck and later pushed onto the side of the road. Details concerning the penalty for causing inconvenience to public and traffic, against the truck/owner could not be obtained.  


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