The past one month has been nothing less than eventful for the Bengaluru traffic police.
The department introduced a rule allowing helmets with ISI marks only. And therefore, even imported helmets that met international standards weren’t permitted. However, because of the outrage on Twitter and ‘technical difficulties’, the rule had to be withdrawn.
During this period, the Bengaluru traffic police were on the receiving end of severe criticism. However, at the end of it all, they were able to salvage their popularity once again, thanks to their active engagement with the riders on social media.
Twitter Comes to the Rescue!
It all started in the first week of January, when the Bengaluru traffic police issued an order which only allowed helmets with ISI mark on the streets of the city. This was done after a similar campaign by the Mysuru police, who ran a week-long campaign against substandard helmets.
The order was based on a provision in the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Act, which mandated that only helmets adhering to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and having an ISI mark, should be used by bikers and pillions.
The rule, however, specified only ISI mark. Helmets without an ISI mark, even if they had international standard certification, were considered illegal.
Within a few days, the Bengaluru Traffic Police chief R Hithendra’s Twitter handle was flooded with angry tweets from bikers. His argument was that without the other standards mentioned in the rules, cops will not be able to allow them.
A barrage of outrage on Twitter soon followed.
But unlike the police we know, the Bengaluru cops interacted and reasoned with the angry riders about the rationale of the decision for several days.
Some debates even went late into the night, and apart from the clarifications on helmets, cops had to issue advisories on the need for sleeping on time as well.
The angry tweets continued to pour in. At one point, the cops took cue from the online reactions and decided to review the rule. They wrote to the transport department on the legality of allowing helmets with international standards.
The cops also wrote to the BIS seeking clarification on implementation of the proposed rule mandating helmets with ISI mark. The rule was subsequently rolled back after the BIS said it was tough to evaluate the quality of the helmets visually.
While the cops’ hasty decision to implement the rule was rolled back, many commuters in Bengaluru feared harassment from cops over the quality of the helmets. The cops soon tweeted on their handle that no officer will book bikers over the quality of the helmets, and they can lodge a complaint if any officer imposes fine.
The Bengaluru cops might have lost the plot with an impractical helmet rule, but their constant interactions with motorists not only set the bar high for their use of social media in governance, but also saved their reputation.