In Focus

Colaba Traffic Division ‘Clamps,’ Collects Records But Not Fine

By A Draft Colaba Correspondent

On 15 June 2021, Colaba’s residents woke up to find their vehicles parked on the main road, adjoining their lane, ‘clamped’ by the traffic police. Crowds of irate residents gathered to plead before the officials in the midst of rain, throwing COVID norms of social distancing to the wind, and pay fines in cash ‘voluntarily’ to free their ‘clamped vehicles’; All of this, for parking in zones which are age-old residential in nature, without a single ‘No Parking’ board anywhere in sight and despite assurances by Colaba Traffic Division In-charge PI Mubarak Shaikh that 'residents won't be fined till the road work gets completed.'

PREPOSTEROUS: Colaba Traffic Police personnel photographing offenders on 15 June 2021 despite the road
concretisation and blockage clearly visible (Image by Ramawatar Meena)

This drama went on throughout the day as the traffic police refused to see reason. When told that Ms Mubarak Shaikh had permitted them to park on the main road, owing to construction being undertaken on the inside roads, their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Corporator Makarand Narwekar
Bonafide residents of the zone that included elderly citizens, women even those keen on commuting within the ‘permitted period of shopping for essential services’ during the lockdown were hugely inconvenienced by the move that persisted for most of the day.

Incidentally, since 8 March 2021, when the work of concretisation and improvement of the zone began, Ward No 227’s Corporator Makarand Narwekar, echoing the residents claim, maintained all residents were categorically told by none less than Colaba Traffic Division In-charge PI Mubarak Shaikh, on several occasions in person, to park their vehicles on the main road and assured that no penal action would be taken on them during this period of road concretisation of the inner roads.

PI Mubarak Shaikh
However, throughout the period, on several occasions, residents found their vehicles clamped by the traffic police and fined under relevant sections for parking in ‘No Parking Zones’, ‘Parked Dangerously’ and ‘Obstructing Pedestrian Movement.’ If that wasn’t preposterous enough, they were also charged ‘Clamping Charges’ that would have to be paid if the clamps were to be removed and the residents allowed to use their vehicles.

Ms Mubarak Shaikh, when contacted by The Draft Colaba maintained that ‘a raid was a raid’ and that Shahid Bhagat Singh Road was “commercial” and “parking was not permitted”. She also asked for photographic evidence that the roads were under construction. When told about the concretisation work being afoot following inordinate delays as published (Click here to read the news report) by The Draft Colaba too, she said that the fines would be reversed, without providing any datelines or processes for the same.

Resident Jitendra Ramalingam
“I have been personally told by Ms Mubarak Shaikh that everyone is permitted to park their two-wheelers on the main road and that the police would not be fining them while the work in the inner roads is completed,” said Sukh Niwas resident Jitendra Ramalingam, flabbergasted with the move to fine residents.

Jitendra Ramalingam has voluntarily been actively overseeing the road concretisation work. "After having suffered inordinate delays in the concretisation itself, residents are angry and tired. Now to get fined for no fault of their, after being assured they won't, is simply wrong," he says.

Even shopkeepers running their business in inner roads being concretised, like Johar Khan, had to pay up fines including ‘Clamping Charges’ of Rs 250 and others that do not reveal details in the challan provided by the police after having paid up the fine ‘voluntarily.’ A fine paid to ‘release’ a bike from ‘clamps’ placed is hardly ‘voluntary’.

WRONGED: Johar Khan displaying a receipt of payment of charges for offences that remain obscure

Why, old residents like Kantilal Satra who live in the lane and have commercial shops on the main road too were fined for the same. “How can the police fine us for parking below our own building on the main road? If we simply cannot park in the lane because of construction work, it isn’t our fault,” says the businessman who had to pay up Rs 550 for a fine.

VICTIM: Kantilal Satra was also fined 'wrongly' and had to pay up
to be able to use his vehicle

Central Railways Chief Materials Manager and Third Pasta Lane resident Ramawatar Meena was irate at the police action which was “repeated at several times since 8 March 2021 when the concretisation of the inner roads began, till date.” Mr Meena, like several other residents, maintained that the Colaba Traffic Division In-charge had asked him to send photographic evidence of the road being under construction and was assured the fines would be reversed, but said, they weren’t. He has been fined Rs 1,450 for parking offences allegedly committed during this period.

IRATE: Ramawatar Meena, fined on multiple occasions and
promised reversal by Ms Shaikh, yet awaits redress

“We have so many people coming to visit us at the Congress Party’s Colaba office in Third Pasta Lane and have no option but to park on the main road owing to concretisation of the inner roads,” says Congress worker Wasim Gazali. “So many poor persons come to visit us at the office. How can you fine them at a time when there’s no livelihood owing to the COVID crisis? Also, there was completely no regard for social distancing when residents gathered to pay up fines to the traffic police in order to get their ‘clamped’ vehicles released,” he pointed out.

CONCERNED: Wasim Gazali points out the COVID-19 norms violations during the traffic police action
Congress Party’s Third Pasta Lane Office Manager Costo Fernandes feels, “Firstly, there has been an inordinate delay in the completion of the concretisation works beyond the 31 May deadline and then, to top it, to fine residents unable to park below their own buildings is so wrong.” 

IRATE: Costo Fernandes complains about the delay in road concretisation work and concurrent parking woes
“Ms Mubarak Shaikh had personally visited the under construction sites and assured residents in my presence that they could park their vehicles on the main road, while the inner roads were being concretised. And, once they do it, to fine them is preposterous,” said Mr Narwekar who says he “has also discussed the issue with the DCP Traffic (South) who is aware of the situation at Ground Zero. It makes little sense to keep fining bonafide residents who have no other place to park.”

VIOLATORS: Colaba Traffic personnel violated COVID norms of social distancing as they collected cash payments
for the fines on 15 June 2021, again (Image by Wasim Gazali)
"I'm going to take up this matter with the DCP Traffic (South) and higher authorities. I will ensure that the fines collected, wrongly from residents affected by the road concretisation work, will be reversed," vouches Mr Narwekar. The corporator has had to intervene on several occasions during this period for similar acts of 'clamping' and 'fining' by the Colaba Traffic authorities and says, "It's time this madness stops once and for all. Residents of this zone cannot be put through such nuisance for no fault of theirs."

DELAYED: The road concretisation work at Third Pasta Lane overshot the mandatory 31 May 2021 deadline
for completion (Image taken on 15 June 2021)
Evidently, this isn’t the first time Mubarak Shaikh has launched ‘clamping action’ against residents and collectively charged fines. Last year, on 27 December 2020, a lot of vehicles in Colaba Market were clamped by the traffic police and fined for being parked in ‘No Parking’ zones; This despite there not being a single No Parking board in place. Why, even motorists entering the market were fined for entering ‘No Entry’ lanes without a ‘No Entry’ Board in place. Following publication of the same (Click here to read the news report) in The Draft Colaba, the traffic police swung into action and placed temporary signages indicating ‘No Parking’ and ‘No Entry’ to the Colaba Market (Click here to read the news report of #TheDraftImpact). Even then, a resident upsurge had forced the Colaba Traffic Division to backtrack and reverse fines.

NO ENTRY: An inner road adjoining SBS Road remains out of bound for vehicles leaving residents with little option but
to park on the main road and get 'fined' for the same (Image taken on 17 June 2021)

Reportedly, the Colaba Traffic Division has been registering a record collection in fines and the ‘raids’ conducted seem to play a huge role in it. That said, there must be some legal basis to such actions which besides causing immense inconvenience to bonafide residents have little to no basis in law. Clamping all vehicles in sight and then releasing them after paying of pending fines at least ‘clamping charges,’ is preposterous to say the least. The move flouts the basic tenet in law of 'Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.'

More importantly, a surge in collection of fines indicates that there’s a failure of law and order in the said zone and needs an inquiry. After all, punishment is about prevention of crime and not merely the collection of fines.

(With inputs from Manu Shrivastava and Anushka Singh)

(Note: Some subjects may have removed their masks only to be identified in photographs to be used with this news report. COVID-19 appropriate behaviour has been maintained at all times)

The Draft has been fighting for the cause of the common, particularly during the period of the lockdown, representing their interests before relevant officials. It is in keeping with this campaign in sync with The Public Space Project that administrative action bordering on the excessive and arbitrary is analysed, called out and addressed Via Media and By The Law

This story is part of The Public Space Project in which 108 readers have contributed till date. They include Nishi Walia, Greeshma Nair, Aditya Rao, Nitin Desai, Catherine Menezes, Komal Saini and others.