Traffic junction or death trap?

Posted On Friday, February 13, 2009 at 03:56:06 PM

IIT main gate traffic junction has become a death trap for pedestrians due to ineffective traffic management, reports Janaki Krishnamoorthi

The traffic intersection at the main gate of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Powai looks like any other junction to occasional passers by. But only the residents and inhabitants in the vicinity know how different it is from any other such junctions.


Firstly, the traffic flows here from six directions but the signal controls only two directional traffic on the main Adi Sankaracharya Road. The to and fro vehicular movements from IIT and other two internal roads of Powai are totally ignored. As a result there is a constant movement of vehicles even when the signal turns green for pedestrians.
"Pedestrians have to literally run for lives at this signal," laments Dr Asha Panemanglor, a resident and activist of Powai who has been taking up the issue for nine years with traffic department but to no avail.  "Firstly, at least three to four vehicles jump signals. Then while the green signal is on for pedestrians, vehicles including heavy vehicles keep moving in and out of IIT gate and other internal roads of Powai. I was hit twice by two wheelers – and on one occasion I fell down and almost missed being run over by a bus. This junction has become a death trap," avers Panemanglor.
And it did prove to be a death trap at least for one resident – a 48 year old woman who lost her life in July 2008. Returning from work in the evening she got down from a BEST bus at the stop near this junction and was crossing to the other side when the signal was green for pedestrians. She was hit by a water tanker jumping the signal and suffered severe internal injuries.
"She was first rushed to Powai hospital and later to Hiranandani Hospital where she also underwent a surgery and blood transfusion. But due to severe injury to her chest and liver the bleeding continued and she passed away" recounts her husband, an administrative staff at IIT who does not wish to be identified. But he concedes nothing has changed at the signal and even today it is an accident- prone spot Though there have been no lives lost here since then, there have been many hits and misses. "Everyday, I see at least one accident – not serious – either vehicles skid or hit each other or hit pedestrians, despite the presence of traffic constables," reports a shop keeper in the vicinity.
"I was hit by vehicles on three occasions, though fortunately there have been no serious injuries," says Mohan Kalani, a resident of old Powai and an ex-IIT professor.
Kalani further adds, "For senior citizens like us whose reflexes are slow, it becomes even more difficult. The traffic signal here has to be changed to accommodate vehicular movements in various directions and to provide an exclusive time slot for pedestrians crossing. I had taken it up with traffic police in Powai and they told me that they cannot install such a signal here as internal Powai roads are staggered and IIT road cannot be considered as a road since it is a private property."
"How can they say IIT is a private property?" queries IIT’s security officer N Vijay Kumar. "It is a major public institute with 20,000 people living, thousands visiting it everyday. There is a constant flow of traffic including schools, buses catering to two schools in the premises. We have also been taking up the issue with the traffic police and thereafter they began deploying traffic constables here," he reveals.
But the traffic constables have been of little use in easing the troubles of the pedestrians say the residents. "I have now written a letter to the traffic police commissioner and RTO demanding a change in the signal system. If they do not take any action, I plan to take it up with the Chief Minister," avows Kalani.
Vasant Karande, new officer in-charge of traffic at Powai, on leave now, however agreed to look into the matter on return to duty later this month.

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