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Traffic problem is growing in the major cities of this country, particularly in the crowded place like Thimphu. That’s why there is now the talk of setting up Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) – advanced applications that will allow users to be better informed to make safe and more coordinated and smarter use of transport networks.

This is an idea that has come of age. At the same time, this very idea could lead us to problems bigger than we are facing today. What can be gained out of this initiative, we must deeply meditate on and weigh with the options available to us today. Problems do not just arise. Often they are brought to be.

Social and economic progress that we have achieved since we embarked on planned development initiatives decades ago has been remarkable. The reality that we are facing today – vehicles choking the roads and pollution spreading far and wide and deep – stand testimony to our growth, to say nothing about the rising rate of crime that the society is grappling with.

Changes are difficult. What is important is how we deal with it. There are options right and choices wrong to pick from. That’s why there is the need to stop and think before we take certain decisions.

The technologies that are considered for installation in Thimphu are 24/7 control centre, traffic lights at some junctions, parking guidance systems, CCTV cameras and speed monitoring cameras, among others. All these sound highly cutting-edge, but what is good for the public could undermine individual’s privacy.

We do not want Ayatollahs under our bed sheet or Big Brothers ever ready to stamp their cold boots on our faces even as we are settling down for a family dinner at home. It may be a low-emission project, but what could come out of it is highly nefarious and toxic.

We hear that the study will develop a plan to set up travellers’ information system at bus terminals in places like Thimphu and Phuentsholing. This is highly welcome.

But things have in their nature to shift to the most convenient of uses they can be put to. It is CCTV on the roads today. Tomorrow, highly improved and invisible cameras will feed images and information from our bedrooms to those controlling and scanning data on the other end.

Of what value are our rights like privacy, dignity and security then?

If the planners of these measures to bring down crime and accidents think that people are going berserk with the idea, you are massively mistaken. We are just asking you to make the system as friendly as possible that will not encroach into individual’s privacy.

We will stand and watch how you bring all these together.  Yes, of course, you have all our good wishes and prayers !

 

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