Thu, Jan 3, 2019


They are judged by people every hour of the day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. The public opprobrium is mostly oblivious to the single fact that without these men & women in blue, Gangtok traffic movement will reassemble a violent video game.
Meet the Gangtok Traffic Police, a well-synchronized team who stand on the road for long hours, risk their health and work together to combat the modern monster called Jamtok.
The men and women of Gangtok Traffic Police are the SIKKIM EXPRESS’s choice for PERSON OF THE YEAR 2018.

Year 2018, among other major happenings, was when Gangtok earned the cruel moniker ‘Jamtok’. Choking traffic congestion stretching from beyond Ranipool to Gangtok happened frequently, especially during tourism months of April-July and September-November.
Social media was awash with frustrated comments of being ‘trapped’ in the traffic jam and ‘two and half hours to cover a distance of mere 6 km’. It even spawned a popular rap song while also stroking a political blame game. ‘Jamtok’ was also a justification given for the demand to turn Pakyong into a second east district administrative centre.
Amidst all these noises, Gangtok Traffic Police silently went by its mandate of managing the movement of around 15,000-20,000 vehicles daily in the State capital.  From Ranipool up to Vajra, the traffic personnel were deputed at different points, coordinating and working tirelessly to breathe life into the grounded traffic. Being the capital, daily VIP movement is also there which calls for extra focus and coordination.
Pressure is always there but duty is duty and we get satisfaction to see traffic flowing smoothly along the highway and arterial roads of Gangtok, says the Gangtok Traffic Police personnel.
Gangtok was earlier just an ordinary hill town, relaxed ambience and yes, minimum traffic fuss.
“In earlier times, the number of vehicles was very less… not much flow of traffic. Traffic jams were less. Gradually, the purchasing power of people started increasing, population also increased and with development, the number of vehicles also increased in Sikkim,” shares Ongmu Bhutia, additional SP, Sikkim Police Traffic Branch, Gangtok.
Ongmu has spent nearly a dozen years in Traffic Police, starting as a sub-inspector.
Today there are above 60,000 vehicles in Sikkim. Most of them come to Gangtok from other parts of the State as all important government institutions and business centres are here. Hundreds of tourists are visiting Gangtok on their own vehicles.
And Gangtok has only one highway and a handful of arterial roads – a river of vehicles streaming with more vehicles fed by its tributaries.
Ongmu took charge as the additional SP (traffic police) in 2013. “When I took charge of the traffic police, it was that moment when I realized that now traffic management is a big challenge in Gangtok. I felt that in future we have to expect traffic jams and other difficulties in vehicular movement. Immediately we started working on this challenge,” she says.

As said earlier, almost all vehicles have to run along the Ranipool-Gangtok stretch of the highway. People have work in the government offices or educational institutions spread across Gangtok resulting in traffic movement from morning till late evening. Then there are trucks, Army heavy vehicles and goods carrier transporting essential commodities or construction materials. All these combine to congest the highway, especially during the peak hours.
The additional SP points out to another issue that has come up in recent times – the number of vehicles parked in colonies within Gangtok. At these colonies, vehicles are parked on the roadside which block other vehicles creating traffic congestion, she says.
Meanwhile, the State government is working on alternative routes like Ranipool to Shyari and Adampool to Ranka. Once these alternative routes are operational, there could be decongestion of traffic in Gangtok, says Ongmu. She points out that the Gangtok Smart City project is also focusing on traffic management and creating several parking lots.

The number of vehicles in Gangtok will only increase, so would new choke points and work load for the Traffic Police team. The new Tashiling Secretariat has started functioning while the new multi-specialty government hospital at Sokeythang would be operational this month. This means, traffic police personnel have to be rationed from the existing points and deputed at the new points also.
Besides the VIP movement duty, Traffic Police in Gangtok also have to cater to government functions and even come forward to manage traffic movement at social events like marriage and funerals in the capital.
“We also have to go for vehicle checking as this is our primary duty. We have to check overloading, documents and condition of the vehicles. Every tourist season there are complaints of overcharging and here also we come forward and take action,” says Ongmu.
A traffic beat constable is stationed at one traffic point for seven hours [more if there is emergency or VIP movement]. He or she is replaced by another constable after seven hours. The Traffic Police officers work for the whole day with only two hours as lunch break.
There are 101 members in the Traffic Police Gangtok branch including 10 mobile teams who patrol the highway and colonies on bikes.
“We have already reported to the higher authorities for strengthening the Traffic Police branch with additional manpower. We need sufficient staffs to control and regulate traffic in Gangtok especially during the peak season. We feel that there should be proportionate increase in traffic police personnel also,” says Ongmu.

Standing in front of vehicles for long hours, exposure to constant noise and everything that Gangtok can throw to them takes a toll on the mental and physical health of the traffic personnel.
“Yes, it is a stressful job. Besides our regular duties, sometimes some vehicle breaks down on the road creating traffic jam and more problems. Our people have to work under stress and gradually it takes a toll on their health,” says the additional SP.
Traffic police personnel are strong and healthy when they first join this posting. Herdai herdai they become weak, she adds.
Ongmu shares that a free health camp had been done earlier for the Traffic Police personnel. Most of the personnel were found suffering from high pressure, diabetes, back and knee pain, and gradual loss of vision. Some of them were transferred on account of poor health.
I feel that the field staff of Traffic Police should be given another posting after spending some years in traffic duty considering their health, says Ongmu. I give our team counseling and all the officers walk with them on the road, she adds.

“Civil society is very crucial in traffic management and overcoming traffic jams. Together we can solve any traffic problem,” says the additional SP. She also thanks the public for their cooperation to Traffic Police.
“I would like to thank the public personally for their cooperation. It is our compulsion to introduce new systems for traffic management and we are happy to get the cooperation from the people and the drivers. We are grateful. Time has come to work together to ensure smooth vehicular movement in Gangtok,” says Ongmu.

Jamtok is a reality and a part of our lives now. The single highway is nowhere enough to handle the increasing number of vehicles and give us the luxury of smooth movement. ‘Us’ means everyone since our lifestyle in our home town depends on traffic movement. Even then, we move about in Gangtok smoothly on most occasions because of a group of men and women who are willing to stand on the road and handle all the pressure. For tireless act of individual dedication and team work spirit, for holding Jamtok at bay, for persisting under pressure, the Traffic Police personnel are the SIKKIM EXPRESS’s 2018 Person of The Year.

Area: 7096 Sq Km
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min- 13°C
Winter: Max- 13°C ; Min- 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi