Anita Lobo, Mumbai’s only female traffic warden, has been a familiar sight on city streets for the past 15 years. It is a position she has taken up voluntarily for no remuneration.
Lobo has been appointed by the Mumbai Police to bolster its ranks, though not on its rolls. Come rain or shine, Lobo is on hand to sort out sticky jams and she does it all gratis. “People abuse, they have bad things to say, some say good things, but it is all part of the job,” Lobo said.
A grocery shop owner in Bandra, Lobo was disturbed by the increasing traffic jams outside her store and one day, walking out on to a street, began directing traffic. Today, she is Mumbai’s only woman volunteer traffic warden. “It’s tough to make men listen to women, but I am firm with them. We complain about the problems, but don’t do anything about it. I decided to do something,” Lobo said.
Managing traffic in a city with a traffic density as high as Mumbai’s is something many would call a thankless job. But Lobo says the gratitude of motorists and pedestrians is payment enough.
There was one jam Lobo found herself stuck in when the Mumbai Police, acting on formal complaints by a group of politicians against her stern policing, showed her the door, unceremoniously. Lobo was left hurt and betrayed. “We have to have sympathy for the police. They do so much for the city, but end up being pressured by politicians,” she added.
When media pressure got her reinstated, residents heaved a sigh of relief. “Traffic clears up within minutes, when Lobo is on the street. She is an example, there should be more like her,” said a resident. More power to Mumbai’s traffic Samaritan for managing the maddening crowd.