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Spare Our Ears!

What comes to your mind the moment you hear the word Horn? If you are from the Western world or even from the Orient, I am sure you must have by now visualised a marauding bull or a rampaging Rhino. In India and especially in Delhi, it is the non-living variety, which comes to the region between our ears the moment we hear this word. While automobiles in India are required by law, and by design, to have horns installed as a safety device to warn others of its approach or presence, there is no statutory limit to their loudness.

Vehicles on Indian roads seem to have horns installed for the specific purpose of startling man and beast alike. They are loud beyond limits of human endurance and acceptable norms of civil behaviour. I for starters, have encountered many instances in Delhi, where I have lost my cool due to the sheer diabolic effect of incessant honking. Living on the edge of insanity while on the streets of Delhi is acceptable to me now.

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To put things in perspective it must be also said that the chaos on Delhi roads, is also due to inadequate traffic management systems that make a mockery of the government’s premier Road Research Institute than only to unreasonable behaviour of its users. The resultant bedlam is seriously harmful to the hearing, productivity and any number of our other sensitivities that are exposed to this daily. It may well equally constitute cruelty to animals and an infringement of human rights. It’s not an uncommon sight to see startled buffaloes running wild along busy Delhi streets, specially in the walled city area, utterly confused due to the all-pervasive cacophony, resulting in many a comic situation where man and animal, both are jostling for a way out of the traffic jam.

Yet, although so many of us are affected due to honking in Delhi, I have not heard voices in protest against this matter. This piece is intended to provoke some debate and, hopefully, some corrections.

  Dance Like An Egyptian

It is easy to blame irresponsible and/or uncouth drivers for honking about which nothing is to be done given our innate apathy to even graver injustices. But, as a start, one step could be to impose statutory limits to the decibel levels produced by automobile horns. At the level of automobile manufacturers and their suppliers, the government could review and, if necessary, re-establish mandatory standards for the upper decibel level. They could compel automobile manufacturers to recall vehicles they have sold with horns that do not comply with norms and replace these free of cost.

All new vehicles could be fitted only with tamper-proof horns of appropriate decibel output. Vehicles on the road could be spot-checked by traffic police with portable decibel meters. These are just a few ideas which could be pondered upon, but the real test lies in how we as citizens of Delhi feel about this and how willing are we to take that extra pain to alleviate this menace of honking. As the adage goes – Easier said than done!!!

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All this might not end the menace but may serve to decrease it to an extent. Also it would serve us well even if we understand that unprovoked honking is against the tenets of decent public behaviour. It is a no brainer that it is hazardous to our health too. I have the belief that citizens of Delhi will surely come forward and join hand to take this issue in the right earnest, or as some people would say – “Take the bull by its horns”. It is this awareness that may eventually count – as it is much less a matter of statutory strictures. And if such awareness were to spill over onto related concerns, Delhi would indeed be a much better place to live, than it is presently.

Siddhartha Sen is a Marketing & PR consultant, avid traveller and writer.

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