Mangalore: This woman cop is no ordinary cop. She is always seen at many intersection or busy traffic areas in the City looking for bad drivers and riders. She is always tough on motorists who break the traffic laws. She never cares if you are rich or highly influenced, instead strictly follows the book of traffic laws when it comes to deal with traffic offenders. She is always available to lend a patient ear or land up at the scene of mishap to handle the situation very smoothly and systematically. She has dealt with some rude and arrogant motorists, and threats have been made and insults have been flung at her but she has stood her ground and worked her way up slowly and steadily. Being a woman in the Police Force will have its disadvantages and she has had flak from many areas – professional and sometimes personal. But the support and guidance of some of her seniors in the Department have helped her bounce right back and face anything that is thrown her way. And I was proud to meet ” My Kind of Woman Cop” ASI Rosamma of Mangalore City Traffic Police, Sunday morning near the Hampankatta/Wenlock junction while she was cracking down and slapping fines on two-wheeler riders for wearing unsafe helmets.
When I introduced myself as a reporter for Mangalorean.com, and also that I was younger brother of Joseph “Joe” D’Souza, Rosamma was overwhelmed and with a big smile yelled at her colleague and said in Kannada, “Nodiri Illi, Evaru America Joseph Uncle-ravara Tamma!” ( See here, he is America Joseph uncle’s younger brother!)- for the fact my brother Joe has been like a good Samaritan to many of the city traffic cops offering them drinking water bottles during hot weather, and is always ready to do some maintenance work/posting traffic signs etc at certain police departments, as a community service. But when it comes to fixing my broken electrical outlet or any repair work at the house, my brother takes months/year to fix it- he loves “Police Department” more than his “House Department”- I guess, it’s okay with me!
Rosamma puts one at ease immediately by actually listening to you when you deal with her. One particular incident brings a smile to her face when she tells me how she was approached by her senior when she was standing without shelter in pouring rain and offered a cup of coffee thus giving her a chance to take shelter and let her guard down for the brief minutes as he shared some words of wisdom ?Do not try to fight Nature?. She tells me that most of the motorists don’t use common sense when they are on the road, and when they get caught for traffic offence, they shoot forth way too many excuses. “I never take any of these excuses for granted, instead slap with a ticket/fine if the offence they committed was legible” said Rosamma.” Riding without a helmet, and telling me they forgot it at home- Is it a genuine reason that something I should forgive. No. Or telling me that he was speeding, just because it was getting late to pick up his wife/GF at work, is it something that I can excuse him from getting fined. No” said Rosamma.
Could it be for over-speeding, entering a No Entry street, reckless driving/riding, riding without helmet/or unsafe helmet etc etc, Rosamma will get you nailed, but according to the book of traffic laws. No arguments and no excuses- you do something wrong, there is no compromise. Although she wants to treat every motorists equally for traffic offences, but Rosamma says, ” Sometimes our laws allow the rich to escape easily through influences or political power, which puts us into hectic situation. Laws should be made equal to everyone, rich or poor-no discrimination. Only then we as police officers can handle smooth transactions of traffic violation issues. Rest is history”. All I can say is that, this is a kind of cop that we need presently in the community to tackle traffic related issues, who works with dedication, sincerity and commitment.
Now coming to the helmet issue- it looks like many riders use helmets just for name sake- some are seen placing their helmets on their bikes/scooters instead of wearing them, some are seen wearing unsafe riders helmet, or use helmet that are worn at construction sites etc. but in spite of many awareness programmes and warnings of wearing safe ISI standard helmets, riders still ignore these warnings etc and land up in trouble with traffic cops, and one of them being ASI Rosamma who says, ” E Janarige, yestu helidare bashe Illa, Summane Fine Kattuthare” (No matter how many time you tell these people they don’t listen, and they unnecessarily pay fines).
One of the reasons for fatalities, especially of two-wheeler riders, is lack of awareness about wearing helmets, which is the most effective safety mechanism. Wearing helmets would reduce the chances of serious head injury by 80 per cent and fatalities by 50 per cent. Nearly 45 per cent of victims of road accidents are generally two-wheeler riders. Those riders who don’t wear helmets or wear unsafe non-ISI standard helmets- first-time offenders would be slapped with a fine of Rs. 100 and second-time offenders would be fined Rs. 300, followed by suspension of driving license with fine.
Every day when you step out you feel there is more traffic than there was the previous day and a directly proportional increase in the local goons/college punks on ?their? two-wheelers, squeezing in through the smallest gaps, some riding without helmets or unsafe helmets. Karnataka is experiencing motorization at a very rapid pace. Everyday there are nearly 500 motor vehicles being added to the existing roads. Data from hospitals show that 60% of traumatic head injuries is caused by injuries caused on the road. These injured men and women are in the age group of 15-44 years of age.
Even with traffic cops cracking down on illegal helmet use and also awareness programmes, I had hoped to see slightly visible change since the flagship, but seems like its not happening. On one end, the traffic police seem to be cracking down harder than ever while on the other, more people seem to be just using a helmet at junctions where the likelihood of getting fined for it increases. There are always these baseless arguments (?Helmets are not needed at low speeds? or ?It?s too hot to wear a helmet during summer?) that discourage helmet laws and often, lead to pulling notifications back. These arguments have no validity. Needless to say political leadership is the key to ensure that this law will be implemented strictly.
According to statistics, hundreds of two-wheeler drivers and pillion riders get killed on city roads every year and experts believe aversion to wearing safe helmets is the reason behind the high number of deaths. Road safety experts also suggest curbs on sale of unsafe helmets and favour introducing new variants of ISI helmets which are more suitable for the hot weather so as to address helmet users? grouse that these head gears are heavy and cause excessive sweating. But it is indeed sad to note that two-wheeler riders do not value their life and use cheap non-ISI mark helmets. A steep penalty, instead of a Rs 100 fine at present, could be a deterrent. A repeat offender should also be stripped of his or her driving licence.
According to the WHO?s Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, non-helmeted users of motorised two-wheelers are three times more likely to sustain head injuries in a crash as compared to those wearing helmets. More than enacting a stringent law, the better enforcement of law can make two-wheeler riders wear helmets in large numbers. People should not wait for law enforcers to push them to wear helmets. If you observe in the City, more than 80 per cent of the helmets used by two-wheeler users are not of ISI mark. The best way to stop this is that concerned authorities should ban sale of unsafe and cheap helmets which cost between Rs 40 to 200 as against standard head gears which cost between Rs 700-2,000. Traffic police on their part claim they discourage unsafe helmets and penalize who use these ?plastic caps.
In conclusion, just because Union Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari gets away without being caught and slapped with a fine, that doesn’t mean Mangalorean two-wheeler riders should follow in Gadkari’s footsteps, and get in trouble with the City Traffic cops. Watch out, ASI Rosamma and her colleagues will be closely watching you. Just don’t wear a helmet for fun and name sake, wear it for your safety !
Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois