With the construction of the Metro being carried out in different parts of the city, road commute on these stretches has become a daily battle for Mumbai residents. In the midst of the honking and tireless wait for the traffic to move, arrives the traffic warden, who patiently guides the traffic out of the chaos. Deployed by the Metro implementing body for its corridors, traffic wardens are found at important junctions around the construction area working along with the Traffic police to help ease congestion.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has deployed 189 traffic wardens along the 16.5-km Dahisar East- Andheri East Metro 7 corridor and another 90 wardens for the 18.5-km Dahisar- DN Nagar Metro 2A. “We have engaged around five contractors to provide us these traffic wardens. We may not require to hire more wardens for these corridors as the ground work is coming to a close here. We have already removed the barricades for around 2 km near Pathanwadi in Malad East as the civil work is completed. If people have any suggestions on how we can manage traffic better, they can always write to us,” said a senior MMRDA official.
Meanwhile, for the construction of the 33.5-km Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ corridor, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has also engaged traffic wardens. “Metro 3 contractors have made available approximately 1,500 traffic marshals for the entire alignment to Mumbai Traffic Police, who manage their deployment and duty hours,” said an MMRC spokesperson.
For traffic wardens, managing the city traffic is a difficult job. Whether rain or shine they have to stand on the road for eight hours a day and with barely any protection from the weather or the vehicular emissions. “We have been provided with caps and safety jackets by our employers, but if we wear them, then nobody takes us seriously on the road. I never gave much thought to the pollution around me, it is only the sun that bothers me. Our work does not permit us to go stand under a tree for shade,” said Pankaj Kumar, a traffic warden near the Metro 3 construction site at Cuffe Parade.
With the Metro construction site emitting endless noise through the day and sometimes even at night, it is not just the nearby residents who are complaining but also these wardens, who have no respite from it. “The noise is a constant annoyance and there is no escaping it. I have to be around the site all through my shift and hearing such loud noise for eight hours every day leaves me quite frustrated,” said Sadanand Yadav, a traffic warden near the Churchgate station.
Yadav had been running a newspaper stall on the footpath near the station for the last 20 years. However, with the construction work coming up there, he said, he had to shut his shop. “With the Metro putting up barricades around here, most of the businesses on the footpath came to an end. I still continued to distribute newspapers to the households in the morning, but with the shop gone, I had a lot of time at hand. So, I decided to take up a job with the Metro. But after the monsoon begins, I will not be able to manage both and will quit this job,” said Yadav, who works in the 7am to 3pm shift after distributing newspapers.
Like Yadav, for most of traffic wardens, the choice of the job is a result of their circumstances. Meenakshi More (name changed) was working as a caretaker in a school when she decided to take a break to complete her 10th standard exams. While she could not clear it, she found that in her absence the school had replaced her. “With three children to feed, I had to find a job quickly. When this opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it without a thought,” said More, who works at the Metro 2A site in Malad.
Working with the traffic police, wardens have also been trained by them. “We were given a three-day training at Mumbai Central where we were given instructions on how to deal with different situations and also taught traffic rules,” said Yadav. However, not all received the training as More claims that she was straight deployed on the road without any training. “I was not given any training before I joined as a warden and learnt everything on the job,” said More.
While it is a huge shift for More to move out of a comfortable school environment and work on the road, she also associates a great sense of pride in working with the police. “It feels good to have the power to stop people when they are doing something wrong. Though it is not necessary that they will always listen to you. I also try to help senior citizens to cross the road and there is great satisfaction in such things. Because of my uniform, the nearby restaurants and hospitals also allow me to use their washroom,” she adds.
However, not all consider their job as a matter of pride. “If people do not listen, then we do not have much choice but to let them go. So we do not get as much respect as the police do,” said Yadav. “People do not like it when another ordinary citizen is reminding them to follow rules. It is nice to have a uniform, but at the end of the day it is just another job. If we do not do it well, people abuse us; but if we do it well, people do not even notice us and pass by,” said Pankaj Kumar.