Shop owners and salesmen besides shoppers have once again started parking their vehicles along the main market stretch despite government restrictions. The April 7 government order had imposed restrictions on parking along the market stretch for not more than five minutes for the convenience of commuters and pedestrians.
The said order had mentioned that owners of shops and residents along the Paona Bazar should park their vehicles behind Johnstone Higher Secondary School, while those in Thangal Bazaar should park their vehicles in the public parking space built above Naga Nullah. Following the government order, Imphal West district police along with the traffic police wing were on strict vigil for the next two-three days. Now, it is free for all as there is no one on duty to enforce the restrictions.
Along the stretch, they do not have to pay the parking fees and they can park the vehicles for as long as they desire, as there is no one to clock the timing of their parking. It seems like the Bazar lobby has won once again while the government order remains lost in translation. Everyone knows that the Bazar lobby is very powerful and they hold at least a sizable chunk of the finances behind every election.
As we said earlier, the main culprit behind traffic congestion in Imphal is roadside parking. In most cities across the country and around the world, it has been made mandatory for every commercial establishment to create their own parking spaces.
Roadside parking has been banned almost everywhere, in an effort to decongest the roads and facilitate free flow of traffic. We are of the opinion that, roadside parking should be banned not only in the commercial zones, but in residential areas also. In many parts of Imphal, one will find vehicles parked in the main roads and leikai roads.
Perhaps, the time has come for the government and municipal authorities to enact a law to prohibit vehicle parking on all roads and to make it mandatory for every vehicle owner to have their own parking spaces for their vehicles in their Ingkhols or rent commercial garages. We have to understand that there are two parking modes. One is short duration parking for a few minutes to avail some services and buy something. The other is idle parking, which should be completely banned.
Shop owners, salespersons and people living on both sides of the road are the main culprits for idle parking. It is happening in almost all commercial areas in Imphal city. Instead of availing their own parking spaces, these commercial establishments encroach upon the footpath also for display of their wares and the adjacent public road for parking of their staff vehicles and of the shoppers.
Coming back to the issue of easing traffic congestion, we now have a full-time SP (Traffic) tasked with the job of ensuring smooth flow of traffic on the roads. But, the security mind-set is still out there dictating terms as it is under the Police Department.
Whatever measures are being taken up or training given, those in charge of traffic needs to shed the security mindset first and become imaginative. As Imphal is at the threshold of becoming a Smart City, one needs to be imaginative and innovative even in terms of managing traffic. And it has to be a multi-departmental initiative and not of the police alone.
The phenomenal increase in the number of vehicles in recent times have also to be considered. Once again, we would like to flag the issue of making the entire stretches of Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar pedestrian-only streets. Pedestrian-only streets prioritise people and are typically most appropriate in corridors with commercial activity on both edges of the street. The pedestrian volume is high in these streets and so vehicular traffic should be restricted.