New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic, with its three-month lockdown and vast work-from-home arrangements, among other restrictions, meant less traffic on Delhi roads. However, the year also saw Delhi Traffic Police penalise more commuters for violations than in 2019, when no such restriction was in place.
This, according to Delhi Traffic Police, is because the cameras placed around the capital to record violations did “the maximum work”, as personnel tried to maintain social distancing.
Last year saw a 59.7 per cent increase in the number of challans issued through cameras at different locations in the national capital. This category of challans is known as notices. In 2020, 1.27 crore notices were issued, as compared to 51.07 lakh in 2019.
The number of on-the-spot e-challans issued by Delhi Traffic Police personnel, meanwhile, came down by nearly 44 lakh or 80 per cent — to 10,99,414 from 54,72,426.
The fines collected by Delhi Traffic Police in 2020 through on-spot challans and notices total Rs 124.16 crore, as against Rs 94.07 crore in 2019 — an increase of 32 per cent.
“The hike in the amount of challans is because the cameras did the maximum work of noting violations as we tried to maintain physical distance as much as possible due to the pandemic,” said Delhi Police Joint Commissioner (Traffic) Manish Agarwal. “The number of on-spot challans issued by personnel on duty at checkpoints reduced, which is why the number of notices has increased.”
Cameras at work
The cameras installed around Delhi to record traffic violations click photos every time a vehicle breaks rules and sends the data — vehicle number and type of violation — to a control centre, which issues a notice to the driver concerned. On-the-spot e-challans are issued by police personnel through VOCA or Violation on Camera App.
Speaking to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, a senior police officer said around 25,000 notices are issued daily.
According to Delhi Traffic Police data accessed by ThePrint, 82,20,161 notices for speeding, and 18,03,287 for red light violations were issued last year.
Explaining the surge in notices, the senior officer said, “For example, someone has parked a car where it shouldn’t be parked — improper parking. In on-spot challans, police personnel wait for the person to come to the car and then talk to him or her regarding the offence, which also gets settled sometimes without the person getting penalised. Cameras, on the other hand, capture everything and the notice is issued.”
In 2020, notices issued for improper parking surged by nearly 78 per cent over 2019. Speeding notices, meanwhile, saw a surge nearly of nearly 69 per cent in 2020.
In a related development, last year also saw a fall of 19 per cent in fatal road accidents, with the number for 2020 standing at 1,163. Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Taj Hassan told ThePrint that this is a 37-year low.
‘Bringing a balance’
The massive increase in the number of notices issued last year set the stage for chaos.
The Ghar Ghar Lok Adalat organised by Delhi Traffic Police with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) on 14 February to tackle payment resulted in long queues, with people also complaining of glitches in the online mechanism.
The senior police officer quoted above said the traffic police is trying to bring a “balance” in challaning in light of the chaos.
“We have started employing more personnel for issuing e-challans at the spot through VOCA so that there is a balance in fining people. Camera-issued notices have increased 2020’s fine amount by a large margin,” the officer added.
The number of notices continued to surge in January this year. For example, 2,54,116 notices were issued for speeding, as compared to zero on-spot challans.
Asked about the website glitches, the officer added, “The service provider for online payment of challan is NIC — National Informatics Centre. Many people have complained about the issue and that the payment often fails. We have raised the issue with the service provider and hope to resolve it soon.”
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