Wheel clamping on Chennai’s Anna Road

As we leap in the dark towards our transport future, preparing for impending battles with other road users in our expensive cars, the Police are rubbing their hands gleefully. They wheel clamped this car, as they had many others before it, at the P.Orr and sons bus stop today, July 13 in the evening. A paper notice was stuck under the wiper helpfully, containing a mobile phone number and warning that the car had been paralysed.

Normally, there is no tear to be shed for someone parking in a bus stop. But this particular spot on Anna Salai deserves mention because there is no indication anywhere that it is a wheel-clamping area. No board, no warning, nothing. What is more, in the normal course, cars are parked at this very spot and the Police take no notice. That is, there is no enforcement 95 per cent of the time.

A sad end to the shopping. At Anna Road, at P.Orr and Sons bus stop.

So it is possible that you thought this was perfectly okay, because you had done it in the past, without any problems. Until one day the clampers arrived in your absence and went about their business, to your shock and surprise. It is depressing see motorists then waiting for the somewhat ancient ‘recovery’ van of the Police arrive later, and a stone-faced officer sitting in the cabin. This person usually will not look you in the eye, and issue whatever instructions from his perch in the cabin, while you stand helplessly, several feet below and look up. Fits the idea of policing, Indian style.

What is surprising to me that this happens relatively frequently — the five per cent cited above translates into several cars — especially during the weekends, at such a prominent place. Yet, there is no initiative to put up the mandatory tow/wheel clamp signs here. I wonder who is less literate, the police or those who watch this everyday, silently and do nothing about it.

In any case, if you are on Anna Road (Mount Road) near P.Orr and Sons, beware!

Update: Just a few days after I took this picture, I found another car wheel-clamped a few feet away from the spot.

In this case, apparently a footpath vendor had cautioned the driver not to park the car there,  as they would ‘lock’ it.

Another vehicle wheel clamped at P.Orr and Sons, Anna Salai, Chennai

Surprisingly, the driver of the car disregarded the advice, and kept it right there. It is not clear if he had some privileged status with the Police, which he hoped to rely on.

Despite at least one or two cars being wheel-clamped at the same spot everyday, and many more on Fridays and Saturdays when shopping is at its peak, there is no warning sign as of today (July 23).

The problem with such arrangements is that they are not uniform. Lack of proper signages is a peculiar Indian phenomenon, something that persists despite the rapid increase in the vehicular population.

The lack of uniformity in enforcement is the second issue, as it makes the system unreliable. There is also the issue of different classes of road users. Those with a red light on the car (‘lal batti’ or ‘sihappu vilakku’) are free to park where they wish, although they are encroaching on bus bays.

Sadly, the Chennai City Traffic Police give a poor account of themselves to visitors to the city.

Also, what is the city going to do as it adds about 800 vehicles a day to the existing base of over two millions?

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