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28 April 2009

Paying Traffic Fines

In the last month or two, I have paid Rs.300 as traffic fines.
The first incident was near Cubbon Park. When I reached the signal, the light was showing Yellow (tending to red). Since it was showing yellow, I moved forward and just as I crossed the signal, the lights turned red. Since it was a corner, I did not notice a strategically hidden police man who suddenly emerged from nowhere and fined me for Rs.100. I did not even get a chance to protest.
He had this 'receipt generator' with him. He collected my 100, immediately printed a receipt and handed it to me.
The next incident happened in a lane which I frequently used to travel. In fact, when I went to office in the morning, the lane was two way, but sometime in the afternoon, they made it one way. They had put up a 'No Entry' board which I did not see as I entered the lane on my way back from office in the evening. The policeman was specially waiting for unsuspecting guys like me. He pounced on me and waved me to stop in one side.
Stupid that I am, I thought that he was there just to warn us, and that he was asking me to go and go I did.
He followed me on his bike and stopped me at the next signal. He started shouting at me in Kannada and I in my feeble protests told him that I thought that he was asking me to go.
That mollified him a bit, but not enough. He immediately collected Rs.100 from me and gave me a receipt from his receipt generator.
The third time, I was coming back from hospital where my father was admitted. It was sometime in the evening and I was driving with my 'High Beam' on. I was stopped near Nanda Theatre. A kind, old police man very kindly informed me that I was committing an offence and that I have to pay the fine.
"This is unfair, sir", I protested, "I just switched on high beam, and I was about to switch it off"
"Life is unfair, young man", he responded, "tell me about it"
I was mollified enough by his calling me 'young man'. (the neighbourhood kids have started calling me 'uncle') that I gave him the 100 rupees that he asked me in return for a receipt.
Needless to say, I have not committed any of the above offences since then.
Psychologists say that in order for a punishment to be effective, it should meet the following three criteria.
1. It must be prompt. Nothing can be prompter than a 'spot fine'.
2. It must be fair. One of the problems that I have with the police system is the miasma of corruption involved. Any traffic violation is the beginning of a negotiation process where you haggle with the police man on the price to let you go. I hate this. But in the new system, you get an immediate receipt.
3. It must not be excessive: Rs.100 fine fits the bill to a 'T'
This new initiative, if properly implemented will serve two purposes. One, it will fill the coffers of the traffic police quickly. It is a volume business. The money thus collected can be used for two purposes. One, a part of it can go to the policemen as incentive. This will motivate them to enforce rules strictly. The second part will go to improving the traffic facilities (signals, traffic umbrellas, sign posts, guide posts etc). Secondly, a proper enforcement will help smoothen the traffic in the city.
I only hope that this new initiative do not fizzle out quickly and the system do not return to the 'Corruption' status quo.

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