<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In October 2016, amid much fanfare, the Mumbai traffic police announced that they would be introducing an e-challan system to replace the archaic pavti (receipt) system. The ambitious plan aimed to make the traffic police force go cashless so that they don’t have to physically collect fines from motorists on the streets.While the move was touted as an image makeover for the traffic police, another intended advantage of adopting the system was to end the corruption prevailing in the department and bring down police-citizen conflicts.The decision was welcomed by Mumbaikars who assumed it would negate ‘harassment’ from traffic policemen, and make paying fines a less time-consuming and hassle-free process.From road to appThe Mumbai Traffic Police even introduced an app, and appealed citizens to enter their vehicle, residential and contact details on the app, which could be used to prepare a full-fledged database.The traffic police officials had also physically sought these details from motorists during sustained drives carried out in the city.They also contacted the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) to share their vehicle registration database with the Mumbai Traffic Police.CCTV watching youIn a phase-wise manner, a CCTV network was installed across the city, under an ambitious project of the state government. The use of these cameras was not only to monitor the city’s law and order situation, but its feeds were also tapped into by the Mumbai Traffic Police to monitor traffic on a real-time basis and identify traffic offenders.By 2016, around 4,700 CCTV cameras were installed at strategic locations, junctions, and roads across the city. A team of over 25 policemen, posted in the Mumbai Traffic Police control room, was tasked with monitoring the live feeds of these cameras and identify traffic offenders. Once the offenders were identified, they were intimated via SMS about the e-challan issued against them. The offenders were then expected to login into the Mumbai Traffic Police app and make the fine payment. The app also provided offenders with an image, captured by the CCTV at the time of the traffic violation, to be used as evidence.PLANNED TO GO DIGITAL, WENT BACK TO SQUARE ONEWhen the plan was initially rolled out, the Mumbai Traffic Police had instructed its men to not insist that motorists pay the fines at the time of getting caught violating the rules. Instead, the officials were advised to issue an e-challan against them. Later, if the offender did not make the payment via the digital route, the department planned to levy interest on the offender’s fine amount.The Mumbai Traffic Police had also stopped seizing licenses of offending motorists after the e-challan system’s introduction.However, within a few months, the department realised that offenders were not paying the fines at all and the total amount of unpaid fines ran into crore of rupees.Failure to get access to the database of all vehicle users was another hindrance in implementing the system effectively. This resulted in not being able to identify and trace offenders in most of the cases.Seeing the entire system crumble due to various flaws and loopholes in its implementation, the officials soon went back to their archaic ways of dealing with motorists. The Mumbai Traffic Police began collecting fines by impounding licenses and forcing motorists to pay the fine on the spot. With this, police-citizen conflicts were back on the roads.NOT ENOUGH MACHINESThe Mumbai Traffic Police provided its personnel with more than 500 e-challan machines to issue challans on the spot, and allow offending motorists to pay the fine using debit or credit cards. However, the number of machines proved to be marginal considering the large-scale crowd that the Mumbai Traffic police deals with across the city.Sushil Joshi, a motorist who recently faced a tough time dealing with a traffic policeman at a nakabandi in Ghatkopar, said, “While they are using e-challan machines at a few places, even now, in several parts, the police asks us to pay in cash. They do not use the e-challan machines despite it being functional, and ask us to pay the fines in cash stating that they do not have swiping machines. Why should we pay in cash when there is a facility of paying through cards?”The traffic police started the e-challan system half-heartedly and handled it casually which is why the effect is not what it should have been. —Ashok Datar, road and traffic expertNAKABANDI NUISANCEAccording to motorists, the biggest issue that has plagued Mumbai’s Traffic Police Department and proved to be the triggering device for police-citizen conflicts is nakabandi. Police officials, however, claim that nakabandi is only carried out on receiving information about criminals plying in the area. In the process, the officials check vehicles and fine motorists if they are found violating Motor Vehicle Act rules.A traffic police officer, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Nakabandi and checks are carried out by both the local and traffic police. It is during these checks that policemen from both departments come across motorists violating traffic rules. The local police is not armed with e-challan machines. This at times leads to conflicts. Whereas traffic police do not accept fines in cash and use e-challan machines.”PAY UP OR ALLOW TOWINGLike the issue of nakabandi, similar issues prevail in the towing system. Since the traffic policemen working in coordination with towing van operators have not been provided e-challan machines, the Mumbai Traffic Police had instructed its men to click pictures of the vehicles violating parking rules, upload them on the Mumbai Traffic Police app and later get e-challans issued against the offenders. However, a lack of e-challan machines led to quarrels between motorists and policemen during instances of towing of vehicles.”Neither can we accept fines in cash nor are we provided e-challan machines. Hence it results in conflicts with citizens. We have no option left but to tow the vehicle, bring it to the traffic police chowky and release it after the fine is paid,” accepted a Mumbai Traffic Police officer.TRAFFIC DEPT NOT TO ASK FOR PUC, INSURANCE DOCUMENTSIn March this year, after receiving several complaints from motorists about the harassment they faced from traffic policemen on the pretext of asking for PUC and insurance documents, the then Joint Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Milind Bharambe, had issued a written order instructing traffic policemen to not stop motorists merely to check their PUC and insurance documents. This was another move aimed at curbing the police-citizen conflicts. According to the traffic police, these documents should be checked by the RTO. However, even this order is being brazenly disobeyed by the traffic police personnel.A motorist and Malad resident, Nitin Jadhav, said, “On Thursday I was stopped at Marol by a policeman who was part of a nakabandi at the spot. He asked me to show my PUC and insurance documents. Since I did not have them with me, he told me that I would have to pay a penalty of Rs 4,000. After a lot of time-consuming negotiation, he agreed on Rs 300 in cash. I was allowed to leave only after making the payment. However, I was given no receipt, neither was I informed about the offence I had violated, under which rule, and the fine’s actual amount.”FINE COLLECTION STATISTICSFROM JAN 2016 TO OCTOBER 201628 lakhNumber of challans issued Rs 24 crFine collection amount FROM NOVEMBER 2016 TO JUNE 201720.1 lakhNumber of challans issued Rs 6.2 crFine collection amount MONTHLY AVERAGE OF OFFENDERS CAUGHT4 lakh47New Automatic Speed Cameras Installed In The City57New High Tech Breathalyzers Procured

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Big brother watched on: A look at traffic police’s initiatives that have failed to live up to expectations