Today my visit to a barbershop yielded double the benefit as I got a haircut and also a subject to write on!
A middle-aged man sitting on next chair decided to impress me by his immense deductive powers. He declared, “This government is going to get wiped out in next elections.” As I love to learn more about behaviour of large and complex systems that, I presume, defy logical analysis, I got over my innate desire to avoid conversations and asked him why.
“People in the city are tired of these cops taking hundred bucks for helmet. These ***** take away keys and impound the vehicle. How can a poor man work without his vehicle? This Sarkar needs to be taught a lesson.”
While I am ready to put my hard-earned money on the possibility that his generalisation was completely based on an unpleasant personal experience, I see something deeper here.
I am perfectly sure that the key-impounding is legally unsound in cases of citizens not wearing a helmet but is executed regularly by the cops as most of the police-citizen exchanges on the roads escalate into unpleasant personal fights full of one-upmanship posturing. Though this is a common problem that we don’t take very seriously, I strongly feel that it is far more important than it looks, as it could be deciding the fate of the nation.
I invite the state to start looking at traffic cops as THE most common point of contact between the authority of the state and man on the street.
Very few citizens are ever going to find out about how it feels to be in a jail or how it feels to meet the commissioner of police, but most of us end up meeting this one representative of the state and that is a traffic cop. So, how we sense the state subconsciously can be solely defined by how a random traffic cop behaved with us.
So, one ill-behaved traffic cop can lead to a chain reaction of a citizen trying to get even by voting against the incumbent state.
As we are living in a democracy, this brings forth an important question. Should the state stop enforcing law just because it angers the citizens?
While it is tempting idea for the state to avoid angering citizens, from the administrative perspective, it would be an absolute disaster. So, there is a need to find a practical solution for the issue, and for that we need to go into specifics of the matter.
I suspect that the citizen anger would be more common in “crimes” like not wearing a helmet and less common in serious offences like driving on the wrong side, and it is not difficult to see why.
As practically no one is wearing a helmet, being fined for it feels like an unjust and personal victimisation, so the person subject to it responds with anger. Hence, enforcement of such rules, if put through cost-benefit analysis, is likely to show that it yields more systemic loss than gain.
Though we do need a very big correction in how people respond to traffic laws, a sensible way forward should be focusing on more serious offences instead of bothering citizens over minor offences.
As we require a course correction of a massive scale, there is also a lot of democratic wisdom in doing it in a phased manner. We need to pick cases where there is a small number of offenders and hence chances of a public backlash.
City police needs to consciously restrategise how it is going to go about solving this critical problem without antagonising the masses, or the medicine of law enforcement will lead to a more damaging social reaction.