The increased incidence of road accidents in the state has for years been highlighting loopholes that characterize traffic management in J&K. Be it faulty road engineering and pathetic condition of roads, or for that matter the reckless and mad driving by the people, or the inaptitude of corruption-ridden Transport department and Traffic Police — everything has conspired to make J&K roads into virtual death traps. Indeed if the frequency of traffic accidents is any indicator, then it goes without saying that driving or for that matter even walking on the roads and streets here has become a massive security hazard.
If one goes only by the reported cases of road accidents, this new menace is taking a great toll on human lives now than it was ever before. In fact the available data suggest that the number of people who are killed in road accidents is way too higher than those who are lost to different militancy-related incidents. Some years back stray incidents of road accidents would occur here and there in the state but now it is three to five accidents a day with the number of deaths and the wounded people at times exceeding the number of accidents. There are about seven hundred thousand vehicles in the state which make it absolutely high number if other factors are also taken into consideration. The roads which are considered as the backbone for the proliferation of vehicles in any state or country, have become so constricted in the state that pedestrians find it hard to get along a road without fear of being hit by a passing vehicle.
Obviously the government is lagging far behind in laying new roads so that the increasing flow of traffic could be regulated in a smooth manner without the roads getting congested, clogged or jammed for hours together. It is an ill-devised strategy to let the population of vehicles multiply unchecked to match the number of persons in the state in absence of the roads. In the last 20 years, the number of vehicles has increased ten-fold while as the space available in terms of roads has remained more or less static. No wonder chaos and confusion have become the characteristic feature of the roads in the entire state. This has rendered the plying vehicles a life threatening menace rather than being an item to assist human development. Add to it the fact that the roads here are laid and maintained by the illiterate and unskilled labourers hired by the road contractors for the job. If anything the engineers and technicians of the concerned government departments are interested in whenever new roads are laid or old ones repaired, it is their own cut from the sleazy money contractors give them for looking other way and for putting a seal of their approval on overly bad road construction and repair works.
Then there is the problem of reckless driving. Nobody bothers to have any checks in this regard. Even though it is a common knowledge that stunt-bikers together with Sumo cabs and Tipper trucks in particular are the most ruthless and reckless on the roads, but so far nothing has been done to tame this chunk. Another insult to the injury is that the Transport authorities are issuing permits without taking the road accommodation into consideration. With it the indiscriminate issuance of driving licenses to those who do not undergo any proper trainings and subsequent tests for securing the licenses as per the rules, makes the mess more striking. It is no wonder to see people in younger teens recklessly driving not only two-wheelers and private vehicles and sometimes even the passenger vehicles without anyone taking notice of the killing trend. In most of the cases it is these untrained drivers who are seen hitting and crushing people to death or maimed for life. There can be hardly any other place that takes the life of its subjects as casually as in Jammu and Kashmir!
If proper, comfortable and dependable public transport service is ensured, people will automatically be dissuaded from opting for personal vehicles. In this regard also, the state miserably lacks a will. No attention is paid to the public transport service. Instead it is the greedy and unruly transports, drivers and conductors who operate the services at their sweet will and choice. So unreasonable and undependable is the entire public transport system here that one wonders if at all anyone can call it a public utility service.
Governor NN Vohra has on so many occasions expressed concern over all these aspects highlighted here. Now that he is himself at the helm, it remains to be seen what his administration would do to make state’s roads and streets safe for both pedestrians as well as the motorists.