Messed up city!

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The Srinagar city has for long been the city of neglect. Take the case of its roads and streets, for instance. Not only are they in pathetically bad shape, but even the traffic mess on them is such that it has become somewhat unmanageable. Though few roads stretches were favoured with a fresh coat of macadam past summer, but majority of the roads were denied even this ritual treatment.  And after couple of doses of snow this winter, even the ones that had been repaired are once again back to the proverbial square-one – needless to say that one could only imagine the condition of surfaces which have been thirsting for care but haven’t been lucky enough to get it for years now!

While the bad roads torment motorists here by inflicting on them what are otherwise avoidable costs of physical wear and tear of their cars, the disorderly maddening vehicular traffic is an added burden on everybody, including even the pedestrians. In the name of traffic management what the authorities have done here is that they have erected barricades at important road junctions, which are forcing the motorists to take long and unnecessary detours without actually helping ease the traffic problem.

As if all this was not enough, the authorities have also put up ‘No Parking’ signages everywhere in and around the city centre Lal Chowk and adjoining markets elsewhere. So anyone found parking a vehicle on the roadside ends up paying hefty fines. But this rule is observed selectively at only the certain places while elsewhere – like in Karan Nagar, Jawahar Nagar, Hazuri Bagh, Batamaloo, in uptown areas and almost everywhere in the downtown — parking of private vehicles on the roadside continues to be a huge problem, which is hampering vehicular traffic in big way and causing great inconvenience to the people.

Interestingly, in Karan Nagar area, while some action is initiated against the ordinary people for parking their vehicles on roadside, no such action is taken against dozens of second-hand car dealerships there, who occupy a substantial chunk of road space. Same is the case with Exhibition road. While the flyover project is inching towards completion at snail’s pace, the road patches running beneath it are in absolute shambles, and also remain a favourite spot for unauthorized parking. Numerous such instances could be cited to prove that SMC’s or for that matter action by the Traffic Police remains confined to a few select areas only, while other areas of the city never really come under the official radar.

Be it the SMHS Hospital or for that matter SKIMS Soura or JLNM Hospital in Rainawari – each of these places faces official neglect in terms of traffic management and regulation. Now if the concerned civic and police authorities are not able to properly manage the vehicular traffic and parking outside these important health institutions, it should not be difficult to guess how the situation is elsewhere.

Actually one of the major problems plaguing traffic management in the Valley is that the concerned government agencies have never really bothered to have what is known as prospective planning. While the number of motor vehicles has exponentially multiplied over the years, the road spaces have remained more or less static, with their condition only deteriorating with each passing day. Similarly, while the government remained busy in earning more and more money by way of registration fees and road tax from new and old vehicles, no amount of this revenue or for that matter creative intellectual input was invested in engineering good roads and arranging parking spaces. And today, the situation has reached a point where the city seems to be bursting open not only at seems but even in the middle due to share size of vehicular traffic.

Making matters worse is the corruption in various agencies, who realize a constant stream of sleazy money (‘Hafta’) from roadside vendors, commercial transporters and others, and in turn allow them a free run to use roads and streets, footpaths and sidewalks as if it were their personal estates! Unless and until all these different agencies are tamed and made accountable for their mandated jobs, the situation is not going to change. This corruption has to end, and so is the selectivity of punitive action. Let there be a start somewhere in right direction.

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