COVID warriors get caught in traffic cams

Lock-down helped frontline staff to move fast, at a cost

Lakhs of COVID-19 frontline staff may have been caught on Delhi Police’s traffic violator’s database during the nationwide lock-down from late March to May.

According to the Union Home Ministry, Delhi Traffic Police issued around 14.5 lakh (1.45 million) electronic traffic tickets between March 25 to May 31 via its system of automatic road cameras for violating various traffic rules such as speeding and running red lights.

However, only 1.3 lakh people have so far paid the fine, while the remaining 13.15 lakh have not. 5.6 lakh of these cases have been forwarded to various virtual courts for consideration, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kishan Reddy said.

Reddy was responding to a question on whether Delhi Police has essentially forgotten to switch off the automatic camera system when the lockdown was imposed on March 25.

Under the lockdown, people were prevented from stepping out from their homes except for emergencies, such as going to the local grocery shop to buy essentials.

Because of this, the roads were more or less empty, making it possible for emergency staff — such as doctors, policemen and sanitation workers — to move around faster than usual.

However, because the roads were nearly empty, most of these people did not observe traffic signals and moved very fast, often above the local speed limits. Because of this, many of these essential workers were caught in various automated traffic monitoring cameras and challans (fines) were sent to their phone numbers automatically.

Reddy indicated it was no mistake that many of these cameras were kept operational. “Over Speed Violation Detection (OSVD) cameras were kept on active mode in view of the safety of all road users,” he said.

As for ‘red light violation’ cameras, a decision was taken to turn them off in 18 out of the 37 signals where they have been installed in Delhi, and these signal lights were put on blinkers.

The 9% of those who have paid the fines have contributed Rs 19 cr to the treasury.

Asked if any steps were being taken to withdraw the notices issued to COVID-19 essential staff, Reddy indicated that the government has no plans to provide any relief.