With iPad and Facebook, Sood talks traffic to Bangaloreans

Bengaluru’s traffic is a pet peeve for everyone. Commissioner Praveen Sood uses Facebook to create a forum to discuss traffic rules and other related issues. Has it opened the flood gates?

Two months after Bangalore Traffic Police (BTP) started its page in Facebook, it has about 3,800 ‘likes’. In this interview with Citizen Matters, Praveen Sood, ACP, Bangalore Traffic, talks about the idea behind the initiative, how it has turned out and further expectations.

What was the original idea behind starting the BTP page?

Our main intention is to educate and sensitise public about traffic rules and create a forum for discussion. We also get lot of feedback which we would not get otherwise – like, when a signal is not working.

This forum is not just a shoulder to cry on or complain. We want public to say how we can make a difference – this could be by following rules or giving solutions. We want to make people part of the solution.

Also, discussions help people see how conflicting their views can be, on what they expect from traffic police. For eg., some want parking on Madiwala market road, while others don’t. Many times, 50% of views cancel the other 50%. Discussions help people empathise with different views.

But 90% of the input is on specific traffic violations, which is an issue. Anyone with a camera can find about 1 lakh violations if he moves around within a sqare kilometre of area in the city. Capturing violations by other citizens or by the traffic police is welcome, but it is not the prime purpose. Fining alone will not change people’s behaviour. Tracking violations and taking action is a painful exercise, it may take a month sometimes for a case to close. But people expect immediate action.

What information do you give on the page?

We post a question and answer every day. For eg., recently there was a question on why two receipts are issued for fines on towed vehicles. Sometimes people get agitated and there are long discussions on them. Some things that people think are wrong, may not actually be so. Many people think that police does not do anything, so we put statistics on action taken. Every week a video is uploaded, showing accidents that happened. People then discuss why it happened.

Do you participate in discussions directly?

I login with my own id, and discuss policy related matters only. I carry my iPad around and respond when I’m on the go. Regarding violations, Traffic Management Centre (TMC) responds. The complaint will appear in the BTP website in 48 hours, but action may take 30 days.

Do you think public should be discouraged from posting violations on the site?

No, it is an open forum and we don’t want to preach. If we censor them, the purpose will be lost. Once we put ourselves in public domain, we do not get disturbed. Even if people call us names, let others see the character of these people.

When people are posting pictures and details of violators directly, doesn’t that impact privacy?

No. We cannot talk about finding evidence on one hand, and then be concerned about privacy. Also the pictures capture only vehicles and not people themselves.

Is there an official mechanism to post complaints?

Yes, our complaint system at BTP website is very vibrant. All complaints here are attended to the extent we can. Facebook is a step beyond complaints – it lets people see what each person is saying.

Do you have statistics of action taken on the complaints on Facebook?

We do not maintain separate statistics on that. We get roughly 13,000 complaints in a day including from field, Facebook, SMS, online complaint system etc. Of these about 10,000 violations will be dealt with and closed on the same day, rest are taken up later.

Are you happy with the response to Facebook so far?

Yes, the response is very good. The number of followers is about to touch 4000. About 100 new people join every day. Overall it has been a very good experience. But traffic police cannot do everything – people expect us to remove encroachments on the road. We cannot undertake the work of some 40 civic agencies. My dream is that about a lakh of people will be on our page and they can be brand ambassadors for us. They can follow rules and impact another five lakh people. It can lead to a mass movement.

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