DESPERATE FOR A JOB? BE A SENTINEL!

The traffic department’s sentinel scheme is working very well and reportedly everyone is wearing helmets and incidents of road accidents have come down… marginally. The government is thinking of applying the scheme in other areas like garbage too — as in get caught throwing garbage on camera and you will be challaned and fined!

BY TARA NARAYAN

You could become a lakhpati!

SAY I was asking for it. Helmets give me a headache and I’m driving up, down and around Panaji’s network of half-a-dozen main roads like a slowcoach most times. I mean, who can drive like a madcap with apology of roads and streets we have? Anyway, one pleasant morning Police Sub-Inspector R S Mangeshkar turned up at my doorstep to deliver a challan to me with the advice that one of their sentinels have posted a picture of me riding without my helmet — better go to Traffic Police Headquarters up at Altinho to pay my fine of 100 and wear my helmet! To say that I was shocked beyond belief is putting it mildly. Now who hated me so much to click a pic of me riding helmetless? A visit to the Traffic Police HQ up at Altinho Panaji revealed much to amuse — there were these pack of seriously preoccupied traffic police in a cosy room busy filling up a pile of challan and neatly stacking them for delivery. The challan were being verified and filled in on the basis of information and CD downloads coming in for the cop-in-charge of the computer works — everything in pictorial black and white, photo, number of vehicle, driver, date, time, place, recording. From the sound of it there’s a growing army of sentinels registered with the Traffic Police — all engaged in the hard work of doing “jasoosi” secretly and yes, earning good income for their pains. Traffic Police Chief Dharmesh Angle refused to let me click pictures of the busy challan filling cop. For one thing he corrected me, “Our Sentinel Scheme is not a spying scheme like the public likes to think! It is basically for raising road safety awareness and was introduced by former DGP Muktesh Chander (yes, he of flute playing fame) from Nov 10, 2017, and at first our sentinels sent their details to our traffic police on the job on WhatsApp, then last November we introduced our own App which is working well.” The scheme is enormously successful, says DSP Dharmesh Angle, on average offenders who get a challan are depositing about2,000 to 3,000 by way of fine. According to him it is thanks to the scheme their daily collection by way of fines is about2,000 to 3,000. With the money they buy useful articles which the Traffic Police need and part of the money goes towards rewarding their 7,000 odd sentinels who earn on the basis of a point system. The Traffic Department’s Sentinel scheme is working and some of their sentinels are prospering well, some have become lakhpati! Who for instance? No, that he won’t reveal, smiled the traffic police chief. All offenders who get a challan come up and pay their fines “and we give them enough time to do so, up to two months.” The scheme is a 100% based App scheme and secrecy is strictly implemented — this after a few incidents of violence took place with sentinels being caught in the act of clicking pictures and being beaten up by angry traffic rules violators. So far there have been about nine incidents or so but none fatal. Of course now their sentinels have become more cautious and do their “jasoosi” job with more discretion so as not to get caught! The story goes that in the beginning members of the public with friends in the Traffic Department would find out who a complainant was and even got to see CD details downloaded. There’s now a notice up on the HQ board warning all traffic staff not to entertain any public requests to find out who spied on them and their wrongdoing. In fact, their registered sentinels have to sign an official letter saying that they would work ethically and by some rules provided and not be motivated by wreaking vengeance on anyone known to them personally. Yes, some sentinels take their job with dedication and work hard to tote up points so they can earn quite an income because every 100 points gets them1,000. The number of points are given on the basis of what the traffic violation recorded is — ranging from no helmets on for two-wheelers to riding three passengers to a scooter or terrible parking! Four-wheeler drivers may be breaking their own set of rules like no safety belt in place, ignoring zebra crossings, carrying on their smart phone while driving speedily and so on.
On the way out one noticed that the Traffic Police Headquarters at the Old IPHB Complex up at Altinho is under CCTV surveillance. So if any arguments or fights take place about how much fine should be paid — it is likely to be recorded! By the way my challan notes that “failure to comply with the direction of this notice within 7 days would result in submitting the Notice of the Court with the addition of Section 187, M.V. Act, 1988, which provides punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 months, or with fine which may extend to 500 or with both; in addition to the punishment provided for violation of traffic.” The short and long of all this is I’ve started popping my head into a helmet more regularly now, although sometimes I forget in the spur of the moment to get out of the house for short sorties to get milk or eggs or veggies or fruit…etc. Then I pray no smartarse sentinel is lurking anywhere to click another pic of me to earn money on poor old me. But see what I mean? There’s a real employment opportunity here if you think you have Sherlock Homes qualities! Register yourself as a sentinel with the Traffic Police. I forgot to ask DGP Dharmesh Angle if there were any women sentinels on their register! Note: As per latest statistics provided by the traffic cell 91,252 cases of various violations were booked till May 31, 2919, while 52,168 cases were registered last year. The total amount collected through fines for the first five months of this year is over96 lakh as compared to 67 lakh collected for 2018. The traffic cell has 7,298 traffic sentinels registered under the scheme. Average number of traffic violations reported by sentinels is 1,000 and on accumulating 1,000 points sentinels may claim a reward of1,000. Ten points in case of triple-seat riding on two-wheelers, vehicle parking on footpaths… zebra crossing violations earn only three points.

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