Tuesday, September 28, 2010

31,000 on Facebook path to smooth roads in Delhi

'Dear Sir/Madam, Today I have seen lot many defence cars, with blue and red beacon lights, judges' cars (with justice label at the back) driving in Commonwealth Games lane,' says a Facebook post received by Delhi Traffic Police, nicknamed DTP by netizens.

The mail writer goes on to say: "I don't see any reason (why a) person who is returning from office like us is using the emergency service lane."

The Delhi traffic police Facebook group, within a month of its launch in May, grew to 3,000. Thousands more joined it in subsequent months. By Aug 1, the number reached 17,000. And the figure now stands at 31,000.

"Big jam on NH-8 towards Delhi, especially Mahipalpur red light turn is jampacked..." informs another netizen, Jasdeep Singh.

"Thanks, staff has already been directed to the spot," respond traffic police.

And it is not always the public which airs its views on the traffic police page; the flow of messages from law keepers is also significant. The networking site is also serving as a broadcasting medium for police.

On Tuesday, Ajay Chadha, special commissioner of police (traffic), thanked the public for adhering to the lane regulations imposed on Delhi roads in view of Commonwealth Games-related traffic, with the mega event taking place during Oct 3-14.

The "experience will encourage us to follow the lane driving system after the Games too", he wrote on the Facebook page.

Police officials said the traffic police account on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are growing in popularity by the day and are allowing aggrieved Delhi motorists to air their woes and forward suggestions for better traffic management.

The reply they receive may not always be to their satisfaction but the gratification of reporting a traffic offence is enough for those concerned about their city, said a police official.

The news of Delhi Traffic Police, a law enforcement agency considered by many as frozen in time, going hi-tech and people-friendly by opening Facebook and Twitter accounts pleasantly surprised Delhiites, who now seem to be making the most of the opportunity to reach out to the police.

"It (Facebook and Twitter account) was launched in May by Delhi Traffic Police to electronically connect
with the public, share information and bring about awareness," said Ankit Varshney, a software engineer who follows the social networking sites of traffic police.

"And going by their growing followers, one may deduce that they've been largely successful," he said.

The Commonwealth Games have been one major reason for traffic police to launch its microblogging electronic venture.

On the introductory page, the traffic police says: "Managing traffic in Delhi during the Commonwealth Games will be a big challenge as well as a great opportunity. Delhi Traffic Police cannot possibly succeed without the active cooperation, participation and support of all the citizens."

The home page of traffic police also carries information related to road cave-ins and traffic jams, but, most strikingly, pictures of traffic law offenders.

Shailendra Sharma, an enthusiastic follower of the Facebook group, said: "They listen to the woes of the people and reply instantly and it has become a symbiotic relationship between the law-abiding citizens and the law enforcers."

A feature of the page that has become quite famous over time is the photographs of the traffic law offenders taken by road users. Photographic evidence provides the circumstances of the offence and clear details about the offender, thereby ensuring a quick reaction by police.

"But people can try and use this opportunity to implicate an innocent citizen, or someone against whom they hold a grudge, which can cause unnecessary hassles to that person," points out Ashish Jain, a Facebook user.

Traffic police officials said they don't take evidence, like a photograph, at face value.

Many police departments around the world are similarly trying to connect with the local population through social networking websites.

"Missing car numbers, pictures of wanted criminals can be shared with the public and they can be made part of investigations without them having to reveal their identity," said a police official.

"In the coming days of the Commonwealth Games, more and more people will join the group to remain updated with the latest news and to help traffic police in maintenance of Delhi's roads," hoped Sharma.

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