My joy knew no bounds when I happened to bump into the deputy traffic commissioner of Police, Mumbai Mr. Harish Baijal at the Khala Ghoda festival recently. This is the man who is set to change the honking scenario in India. It is with his singleminded leadership that Mumbai city has now become much more quieter than before. Within a year's time, nearly 200,000 individuals have been fined by the Mumbai traffic police for non-compliance with the anti-honking regulations. Everyday nearly 1500 are punished for unnecessary / excessive / abnormal honking.
It so happened that at Khala Ghoda arts and culture festival, a street play on no honking was organized. I really liked the initiative and wanted to know more...and there he was--Mr. Baijal 6 feet+ tall. No honking and traffic regulation top on his agenda. After the street-play, even as his special drama crew rushed to the van which was covered with no honking stickers from all sides, I found a moment to meet up with Mr. Baijal and his wife. He called up the driver of the crew van and warned him not to honk, at least for the sake of respecting the stickers on his van! The guy saluted and said 'Yes Sir, I mean No Sir, I will not Honk'. I was invited to Mr. Baijal's office the next day.
Mr. Baijal briefly shared with me his story of success and difficulties with the campaign, and how he himself was not concerned about the issue as recently as 4 years ago. It then struck him one day, and now the rest his history. As we discussed the issue, he was full of new plans and ideas for the creative promotion of this campaign and was busy working out the no honking week details on his computer screen. He very generously offered me 5000 printed anti-honking stickers for promotion of the campaign. I was impressed by his resolve to fight the honking nuisance. His assistant told us how they believe in a change of mindset--'There was a day when it seemed almost impossible that the British would leave this country, but a day came when the country united together for a cause and we got our freedom. No honking is simpler--we only need to make people aware, and our job is done.' Mr. Baijal is looking for more voluntary support and suggestions for the campaign.
It was encouraging to see how an upright, creative, concerned and dedicated senior government official can make a huge difference to our society.