Beyond official meetings
Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu on Wednesday called for strict enforcement of traffic regulations and creating awareness regarding road safety across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir so as to prevent incidence of road accidents. At a meeting with the top functionaries of Transport department and Traffic Police at the Civil Secretariat Jammu, the LG asked the officers to identify the causes of accidents and take effective corrective measures with regard to the black spots, increase highway patrolling, install CCTVs in the areas witnessing increased violations of traffic norms and prepare a database of places requiring underpasses, service roads, etc. He also directed for installation of traffic signages on all roads across J&K, especially the roads vulnerable to accidents. Now all these measures if carried out will certainly have positive impact as far as reducing the traffic violations are concerned, but the question that merits answer is if at all the concerned authorities would do what they have been told to.
Both road engineering and traffic management are highly evolved services which are effective only as long as these are carried out on scientific lines. However, the problem with J&K is that ‘scientific management’ is as if an alien concept, and its absence is visible in each and every sphere and sector and not just in road engineering and management of vehicular traffic. Though using technology, as is the case elsewhere in the world, is always of great help, but for this there has to be a change in the basic mindset, first in the bureaucracy and then among the general public as well. As of now both remain overly resistant to change, are seem in no mood to look at the technological interventions as tools to solve problems, but only as an aid and agency to earn money, by way of contracts and kick-backs. Very unfortunate, but this is the sad reality, which makes J&K a very dangerous place.
For instance, roads here are laid by private contractors, who get the jobs done by employing unskilled or semi-skilled human resource with no or very little educational, and certainly no engineering capital. Though engineers are there on the pay rolls of various government agencies to supervise these works of contractors, but the corruption-ridden work culture is such that the engineering experts hardly ever invest their scientific know-how while in supervisory roles. Their sole concern and motivation is their share of the sleazy money that comes in lieu of putting their seal of approval of the works on ground, good or bad notwithstanding. There is a fixed percentage that a contractor has to shell out towards the officials at each level in the hierarchy — right from allotment of contracts to realization of bills – and anyone in know of how things work here will testify that actual engineering acumen is almost redundant in this business.
Same is the case with traffic regulation and management. As long as there are violation and violators, it ensures a steady income for those in the regulatory and management roles. If everything goes on smoothly without any problems, hassles and violations, it will mean that people in these roles will have to remain content with only what their paychecks get them at the end of each month. Will they be ready for it?
Whatever the LG has said and suggested is OK, but his administration will have also do something about bringing in accountability in the system. This is an area that needs immediate and sustained attention if the idea is to put an end to the multitude of problems faced by the population in every sphere and not only in terms of road traffic and its management. And unfortunately this is never really talked about in the official meetings.