Day in and day out, Srinagar witnesses the most awful traffic jams. One cannot outline who suffers less and who loses more, but the anguish and agony troubles everyone when they are stuck in a traffic jam.
The matter is so serious that it has become a point of discussion on social media and in public gatherings. To remain stranded for hours in a traffic jam has turned out to be a part of the daily schedule of citizens. Employees just give the word ‘traffic jam’ as a justification for reaching late to work. Notorious traffic jam-points in the city like Rambagh Bridge, Qamarari Chowk, Bemina, Sanathnagar, Tangpora and Jahangir Chowk, the city’s centre, give the impression of cars being a flock of sheep, as the massive rush of vehicles remain stranded on a daily basis.
Only when VIPs travel around the city do the traffic authorities act and clear the road. Once they are gone, they again go into hiding. If we spot the causes for the traffic mess in city, the list would not be too small. Malfunctioning on the part of the authorities – be it the traffic police or the regional transport officials – to look acutely into the matter and devise the effective policies cannot be overshadowed. But apparently, there seems to be a lack of coordination between the two, the reason being internal administrative issues or the tussle of egos. At the hands of both, the general public suffers.
Peddling money on the roads in the name of chalans and distressing people on roads is not always an allegation against the traffic police. In many cases, these can be verified as well. The biggest letdown, which has to be admitted by the traffic police, is the deployment of unscrupulous, unskilled, uneducated personnel on roads for scheming the traffic movement.
Wearing a blue uniform does not make a man a traffic-control expert, unless and until they are properly given guidance and counselling. That is why such people stop the vehicles in the centre of the busy roads to check their documents without caring for the other hundreds of vehicles following the it. A large number of cars, including private and passenger vehicles from almost every district of the valley, particularly from the rural areas, enter into Srinagar every day.
It is up to the authorities to devise appropriate methods for the management of such vehicles in the city. The mere shifting of a bus stand won’t work. The free flow of traffic in the city is to be ensured wisely, as the government is mighty, before whom nothing is unattainable.
The Hon’ble High Court of J&K, in writ petition no 458 dated November 19, 2017, has directed to seize any vehicle which may be found to be illegally parked. But the traffic police only seizes the private vehicles, while the passenger vehicles (including the minibuses) are left out of this. One smells a rat here, as it seems that there’s a nexus between the officials and the vehicle owners.
The other side of the story is that the seizing of vehicles alone by the traffic police and the armed police, as a deterrent, is not going to solve the problem any more. Astonishingly, the armed police of J&K is now helping the state in generating revenue by seizing and fining the vehicles on roads. People parking in the wrong places – and thereby, blocking the way – need to be educated by helping them develop a civic sense.
Illegal encroachments still exist despite orders from courts and executive bodies for their removal and demolition. The Srinagar Municipal Corporation grants permissions blindly for new constructions and shows disinterest in razing down the illegal encroachments along the city’s roads. One fails to understand what prevents the government authorities from implementing the laws.
The roads are shoddily encroached by the street vendors, particularly in the Jahangir Chowk and Hari Singh High Street areas. One can hardly walk through these markets, let alone take their cars into these localities. Why is the government failing to control this haphazard expansion?
The reasons for this instant mess may be innumerable. The numerous effects of this mess should also not be overruled. That is why steps to improve the situation need to be put in motion.
Every person sitting in a vehicle stranded in traffic jam is a victim of the disarray. Everybody being a conscientious citizen ought to take steps to lead towards the reformation. No doubt there are agencies within the system that are shouldered with the responsibility to fling and lob the troubles, but honestly speaking, every individual in the society needs to take pains for the betterment of their own society.
Sunrise in Kashmir, a leading NGO in the valley, has been very vocal on this issue and has already picked this issue in their darbars as well, where all the top-notch officers from concerned departments were called and questioned. No doubt, the problem of the traffic mess is serious, but at the same time, it’s worth noting that the authorities have seemingly not taken any bold step to cure it. The whole system and management needs to be overhauled.
A separate wing which doesn’t face any interference from any quarter should be in place to carry on the traffic management. There needs to be an advisory committee of experts to guide and give suggestions from time to time, so that lacunae in the system may lessen. The constructions on and around the roads should be completed on a fast-track basis in a time-bound period, but unfortunately, accountability seems to have lost its place here.
There should not be a place for a bargain when it comes to the widening of the roads. The concept of using cycles needs to be revived. If the system continues as it is, one cannot dream of traffic-free roads in the city.