Traffic lights: Shillong’s sad love story


By Nawaz Yasin Islam

SHILLONG: The city of Shillong never lagged when it comes to technological advancement, but, the sad part is its 'momentary nature'. The government at one point of time wanted to a push to a whole new level with the introduction of automated traffic posts but, after the sanction and allocation of huge funds, the project never saw the light of the day. Posts were installed but were dysfunctional from the word go…leaving hopes crushed like grapes! This sorry state of affairs became one of the most humiliating ventures of the Meghalaya Government.

The famed yellow posts to beautify the city remains a topic of endless 'cigarette and tea gossips' and much has been written and complained. With authorities drifting from this 'greatly successful' venture, the 'timid' population is left with 'promises of a lifetime.' It is nothing different from villages with no electricity. The 'bolt' of electricity comes years after the installation of poles. We are surely on the path of progress.

But who cares, Shillong can be the backdrop of a perfect spoof to the movie!

The report of the comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) in the year ending March 2010 said the implementation of the urban traffic control system project without proper assessment of its feasibility through an appropriate survey resulted in a waste of Rs 1.98 crore. Why term it as a waste? It is just a gift too expensive for better use having been made out of it.

Flipping through reports from sources, one finds that the then state Director-General of Police revealed that the project was executed without assessing the climate of Shillong. It is very much possible that even arctic regions have functional signals as traffic cops will find it hard to keep their eyes open in the cold blizzard.

Perhaps the reason for these signal posts did not work in a cold climate such as Shillong is since the new system is a technology developed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Thiruvananthapuram, for use in road traffic signalling (that's a hot place down there!).

It was in March 2006, that a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) was signed with M/s Webel Mediatronics Ltd (WML), Calcutta, to implement the project at 16 traffic intersections of the city. 14 years down the line, we have remnants of a 'forsaken' and 'forbidden' city.

Poles that stand (fall in some places) are testimony to a 'highly developed and fast-paced' city.

The failure of the 'education system' has been exposed amidst all this. Without proper training and usage education imparted to the traffic personnel, the hilarious consequences are left unexposed. The remnants today are that of a costly gift given snatched from the hand and worst…forgotten.

The traffic signal posts are not an entire waste, come on!

We now have another pole to aim that stone at, another stick to rub lime on and beautify Shillong just the way we have forever succeeded (That's how Shillongites mark their territory!). The base of the long traffic signal poles become more of a 'spittoon' for the general public.

The other good fact is that irrespective of the situation and effectiveness, Shillong looks like another Nuevo Reino de Filipinas: La Provincia de Texas, a small yet extensive state! Tourists are awed by the fact that a hill station is so highly advanced!

They would never drive around in their cars but, the pictures carried back home would reveal the lush greenery, beautiful landscapes and tremendous advancement in technological terms.

So, looking at the doughnut rather than the vacant hole, the government's initiative is laudable. They have looked at making up a disfigured face.

If it's not too much to ask, maybe a thousand crores can be sanctioned to repaint the posts and erect the fallen ones. No one is asking for a functional signal as we have our very own 'less staffed' specialist traffic controllers. At least the complete picture will be lionized.

The sober public's equally sober outrage is appreciable. No one questions but possibly perceives it as a mere utilization of their tax money to please their rolling eyeballs.

A rebellious sword ripping through the fat oppressor stomachs is the desperate need of the hour. Paint the traffic signals red!