About roads and the traffic

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While chairing a meeting to review the progress of works on NH-44, Chief Secretary has observed that the rate of progress of road-widening/maintenance works is unsatisfactory which is causing inconvenience to the commuters. He also pointed out that the problem is further aggravated by rash and indisciplined lane driving leading to frequent traffic jams; shortage of traffic personnel deputed on NH duty and unannounced movement of army convoys. It goes without saying that better road connectivity is key to the development and progress of any region, Jammu and Kashmir being no exception. The Union Territory administration is all geared up to construct new roads in Jammu and Kashmir and to black top some 8000 kms of road length. However, the government needs to take a break from past practices and pursue the projects with scientific mindset. Road engineering and traffic management are highly evolved sciences and services which are effective only as long as these are carried out on scientific lines. 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, and seem in no mood to look at the technological interventions as tools to solve problems. For them this technology too is another 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 violations and violators, it ensures a steady income for those in the regulatory and management roles. The mismanagement of traffic, as pointed out by the Chief Secretary, is a great cause of concern. It is in this backdrop that he has directed the concerned authorities to double the manpower to manage traffic at all choking points in addition to implementing suitable remedies to reduce the travel time between Jammu and Srinagar. While the Chief Secretary has made these observations vis-à-vis traffic on NH 44, the traffic mismanagement is seen on all roads of the UT. To save peoples’ time and their lives from fatal accidents, the administration needs to pull up the concerned agencies to ensure that the traffic on all roads is managed scientifically.

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