Everyone, but everyone, has heard about Bangalore traffic. People complain about it in drawing rooms, write about it on Facebook and joke about it on WhatsApp. There are very few though who will step out to get down and dirty and do something about it. Ajit Lakshmirathan, 65 years old and retired from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is one such man.
“You can start a conversation about the troublesome traffic of Bangalore with anyone in India. Residents here are always complaining about the horrible traffic situation and how nothing is being done about it, ” says Ajit.
Therefore, at an age when many people like to relax and spend time at home with their families, Ajit Lakshmirathan decided that it was time to end the continuous cribbing about traffic.
He wanted to start taking action in order to solve the ever-increasing problem. Today, he is seen at some of the most crowded and chaotic traffic signals of Bangalore, trying his best to help vehicles move as smoothly as possible.
“We see a lot of people complaining — ‘this is not right,’ ‘that is wrong.’ There are also many armchair activists, people on Facebook and WhatsApp who keep whining about various issues in the country. But I believe that if you have a complaint, you have to work on it,” says Ajit, who lives in the Whitefield area of the city, a locality known for two reasons – for being the IT hub of Bangalore and for being a very difficult region to reach or cross because of the traffic.
Ajit retired from RBI in 2010, after 40 years of service. Since he was always interested in working at a personal level to bring change rather than give armchair advice, he soon joined a group called Whitefield Rising. This group helps people from the locality come together to devise solutions for issues concerning them — water pollution, broken footpaths, unhygienic garbage disposal habits, and a lot more. (Read more about Whitefield Rising here)
“I made many friends in the group and we realised that in Whitefield a major area of concern for most people is the traffic. So, a couple of us thought that we should be doing something about it,” says Ajit.
Initially, he began by speaking with traffic officials in the area close to his house, to find out what the problems were and how they could be dealt with.
After speaking with the officials, Ajit felt that some formal training would help him and others who wanted to contribute to solving the problem. They required a much better understanding of the issue at hand.
Hence, he joined the Traffic Warden Organization (TWO), which is a wing of the Bangalore Traffic Police. The Bengaluru City Police Traffic Warden Organisation came into existence in 1985 with a view to having citizens assist the traffic police in Bangalore. Since then, members of TWO have been sharing the load of the increasing vehicle population and traffic woes with the officials. The duties of the wardens include assisting the police in regulating traffic, along with educating road users, including pedestrians, about road safety. Headed by former Traffic DCP M.T. Naik, TWO has trained numerous wardens coming from various fields of employment, including doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, industrialists, and more.
These wardens volunteer their time to help fight traffic troubles in the city.
In order to become a traffic warden, interested candidates with a minimum educational qualification of Class 12, are required to fill an application form, which is followed by police verification and a day of rigorous training. The training includes information about the various traffic rules, awareness programs, traffic violations, rules for violators, and other traffic management details. Wardens also have to file monthly enforcement sheets and submit them to TWO, detailing the kind of work done in the month. They do not get any salary for this role.
After the training, applicants receive certificates from the Commissioner of Police, post which they can begin their duties.
Ajit received his certificate in December last year and since then, he spends three to four days on the road every week helping with the traffic.
“Every traffic signal in the Whitfield area is always jam packed. So thinking about which signal I should go to help out that day is not much of a task,” he laughs. As Ajit lives near the Kundalahalli Gate signal, he usually chooses to go there and works from 9:30 am to 12:00 noon.
“The priority for us is the smooth movement of traffic. We also stop violators at times but that is not the first thing we do; the number of violators anyway comes down when there is a person in a uniform standing at the signal,” he says.
He takes down the numbers of the vehicles that break rules, such as people who jump the signal, cabs that stop at bus stops, buses that don’t stop at the bus stops, etc. He also helps conduct trainings for BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) drivers.
Ajit has some really amusing stories about the excuses framed by traffic violators: “People give some ridiculous excuses for driving on the footpath. A few will tell you that they are related to some prominent personality in a position of power. There are others who request that I should let them go because they have to use the toilet urgently.”
Ajit is active on other fronts besides traffic and Whitefield Rising. This 65-year-old is a member of a group called the 50+ Bulleteers of Bangalore.
This group of people, over the age of 50, who have a passion for riding Royal Enfields, get together once every three months to ride for a cause. They take up social issues on the way — such as teaching English to village kids, picking up plastic waste and clearing garbage, donating clothes to the needy, etc.
Ajit lives with his wife, while his two sons live in Mumbai. This inspiring man is very humble about the work he is doing.
“It is not a very strenuous job like people think it is. You just have to stand in the open for some time. But the respect you get is mostly because you are wearing a uniform and, in my case, also because of the age. My idea of relaxing is to do something which makes me personally happy and if that means working for community welfare, it’s right up my alley! Being part of the wonderful Traffic Warden Organisation and Bangalore Traffic Police gives me immense pleasure. Seeing people much older than me relentlessly pursuing difficult goals continues to inspire me,” he concludes.
You can contact Ajit by writing to him at email@example.com.
Know more about Bengaluru City Police Traffic Warden Organisation here.