Please restore our roads

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People of Kashmir should seriously start thinking about not paying the road tax. The reason is simple: government does not deserve it. Instead it is the government which should actually be paying people for the damages suffered by their vehicles while moving on the broken roads here. Such is the condition of the roads and streets throughout the Valley including in summer capital Srinagar and downtown in particular that it has become really a nightmare to drive. And yet the government, and the concerned (read unconcerned) R&B Department, which should have been busy rebuilding these overly dilapidated, potholes-ridden roads, seems busy with something else. In such a situation if people actually stop paying road tax, it would not be without a reason.

Coming to the working of the R&B department, in coming days it will busy itself with the paint brush. As the Darbar is beginning its summer stint in the Valley in few week’s time, road-dividers and pavements will be given a ritual annual coat of black and white paint. Similarly they will also be putting up new tree-guards – as this seems to be a very lucrative business for them. Now one may simply ask what is the fun of all thus ornamentation when the basic road surface is not traffic worthy. So big are the ditches at certain places that people themselves have put up big boulders or other visible blockades around these trenches to save motorists from falling into these. Thanks to this care and concern shown by the ordinary people, scores of possible roads accidents are thus avoided on each day. In such a situation it may not be out of place to blame R&B engineers, and for that matter even the officials of the district and divisional administration of being neglectful to the extent of being blind. Because if they were not, then they would certainly have taken care of their responsibilities!

Instead of wasting huge sums on the ornamentation works – like installing tree-guards or putting black and white paint on the edges of sidewalks — common sense has it that the authorities should first focus on filling up the ditches and potholes and if possible also lay a fresh layer of macadam so as to restore the road surface. Otherwise also fresh macadamization of Kashmir roads is long overdue. Ornamental works can follow at a later stage.

By the way during past few years people were told that the government has signed “three year maintenance contract” with the road builders. If that be so, then the builders who have got road building contracts during these years are obligated to carry out necessary repairs of broken roads and they should be roped in to do so. Otherwise, the government should inform public that no such stipulations were there in the contracts and that it had lied to the people about it. In that case the officials and ministers who made such claims should be tried for perjury!

Now the authorities may want to shift blame on the harshness of the winter. But this explanation, even at its best, is only an excuse. Kashmir is not the only place which has harsh winters. There are scores of countries in Europe and Americas and elsewhere which have winters far too harsher than how it is here in Kashmir, yet road surfaces in these countries are among the world’s best.

Now that the Darbar is reopening in Srinagar, let’s hope that government, even if for the ritual sake, would dedicate some attention to repair the broken roads here. Mind it we are talking about restoring the physical road surfaces within the Valley, and not about that mythical connectivity of “hearts and minds” between Srinagar and Jammu, or Srinagar and New Delhi, which government talks about all the time without actually moving an inch towards realizing this goal!

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