It’s the festive season, you go to a house party, and chances are, you have one drink, two and then three. Next thing you know, you are copped as you are driving home. You were asked to blow into a pipe that tells the alco-sensor how much you’ve drunk, you’re handed a challan, your car is impounded and you have to call a cab home. If this has not happened yet, the probability is increasing.
The UT Police seem to be in mission mode against drunken driving. Checkpoints to test for drunken driving have become commonplace, and are seen every other day, rather than just on weekdays. Upto a maximum of 13 nakas come up on these nights, some of them stationed at one place through the two-hour checking, and others changing their locations several times in those two hours of a single night.
By the end of this year, Chandigarh traffic police may well outdo the number of drunken driving challans issued over previous years. As many as 4,745 people have challaned for drunken driving in the last nine months since January 1 to October 5 and the current figure is higher than the figures of 2015, when a total 4,052 people were challaned throughout the year.
“Although a total of 5,033 people were challaned for driving vehicles under the influence of alcohol in 2016, we are pretty sure this year the number will be more than 5,550,” said a senior traffic police officer, requesting not to be identified as he is not authorised to make official comment.
The officer said between 80 and 150 challans are being issued every evening. On the night of September 13, a weekday night, a total of 157 people were challaned for driving while drunk. “The graph of challans has been increasing since August 30, when a ban on the serving of liquor at different places adjoining Madhya Marg and some internal roads of Chandigarh was lifted.”
Sq Ldr G S Multani (Rtd), a traffic marshal attached with Chandigarh traffic police, who opted only for supervising late night drunken driving nakas, feels that there are several reasons, which can be attributed to the increased number of challans for drunken driving in Chandigarh in the past couple of months.
He said, “The number of people who consume alcohol is increasing drastically. There was a dip in the number of challans between April and August when the decision of apex court was implemented in Chandigarh not to serve liquor within the limit of 500 metres of state and national highways.
Recently, traffic police officials have also made major changes in the strategy of drunken driving challans. The changes include increasing the number of nakas, changing the timing of nakas, increasing the number of alco-sensors and the recent introduction of mobile challaning system, in which traffic police personnel can challan a person after chasing him and assessing the presence of alcohol in his/her body.” Sq Ldr Multani has been working with traffic police since 2004.
Sources in traffic police said, “The traditional timing of drunken driving nakas was between 9 pm and 11 pm but now the nakas start after 10.30 pm. Earlier, there were fixed locations throughout Chandigarh for the installation of nakas; now the locations are frequently changed. Earlier, nakas were laid only on weekend nights; now nakas are being laid every second day.
Even on weekends, drunken driving nakas were laid during day hours as well.” The practice of laying nakas during daytime was started following complaints of general public about drunken driving menace during day hours at some specific locations, including Attawa roundabout near Sector 42, Hallomajra light point and Naya Gaon road, which leads to Rose Garden.
However, it is not easy to issue challan to someone for drunken driving. An inspector-rank officer said, “We are often accused of halting the traffic flow on the busy roads while putting nakas. Sometimes, there is a chaotic situation at the nakas when the waiting line of vehicles stretches to around 1km long. Such situations arise when people behave adamantly and do not allow us to conduct their breath analysis. There are several instances when we had to take assistance of general police and lodge FIRs against people, who become violent with us.”
According to the figures, about 23 incidents were reported in which traffic police personnel on duty were assaulted by inebriated persons. In a recent incident, three inebriated persons — a Punjab Police constable, Simranjeet Singh, along with his brother and one friend — were arrested for beating up a Chandigarh traffic police head constable, Harvinder Singh, near Piccadilly roundabout, Sector 34, on September 4.