Shortage of parking space, high parking tariffs, wrong parking and traffic congestion due to visitors in search for a parking place are only a few examples of everyday parking problems. According to the Union Ministry report, Jammu and Kashmir has the lowest road density at 164 (per 1000 sq km), far less than the national average of 1480.
In Srinagar alone, there are more than 40 on-street parking spaces, which are generally far from commercial hubs. These parkings have no marked premise, the lessee can charge anyone anywhere. They will force you to pay for parking on the side of a street when you don’t need it, even if it is for few minutes only.
One day I parked my vehicle on the side of a roadway at Foreshore road for a few minutes. On return, I found a parking bill under my viper and out of nowhere a person comes and demands 20 bucks. He claims that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has given him an authority to charge parking tariff anywhere possible. The side area of the road made by taxpayers money allotted to them are those relatively less busy areas where there is enough space. These areas are hardly marked, and tenants often extend their space more than three times and claim every side of the road nearby under their lease. The common man is being looted every single day on road, and the authorities seem to be enjoying the same.
I think the main motive behind parking is the security of the vehicle, the bill must be handed before the driver leaves, whatsoever. How can a person stick the bill to viper and charge money? Motor Vehicle Department charges 6000 INR in one-time token for motor cars up to 14HP as road tax. Srinagar Municipal Corporation puts dust bins on busy narrow roads, like one at Naik-Bagh Nowgam, but citizens who pay tax in advance are charged to park their vehicles next to a passenger shed.
Another day in Gulmarg a guy came in front of my car and asked me to pay parking charges, I argued that I am not parking but going in the meadow. As I had already paid toll and entry fees to the authorities concerned, he maintained that this is parking for entire Gulmarg! Maybe entire Gulmarg was on the lease! These people are cheats and fool people on a daily basis by handing them a so-called receipt. It is beyond my understanding why people pay gate pass on the name of parking to these dishonest goons.
Mechanized car parking at Lal Chock charges 20 bucks for the first hour and 10 each for the following. Suppose an employee parks his vehicle for 8 hours, he is supposed to pay 90 bucks, that is why we see thousands of cars parked in a number of rows all over the city, resulting in everyday traffic jumble.
In the past decade, the state has witnessed more than 160 percent increase in vehicle population but a meager 20 percent increase in road density. Where will the vehicles move from and where they will be parked? Like in other cities, the roads were supposed to be widened accordingly and parking spaces were to be marked on the side.
I recently got an opportunity to be a part of Hangul Census 2019 at Dachigam National Park. For those 4 days, I realized and felt that animals live a far better life than us. Srinagar is a small city but driving from TRC to LD in peak hours in no less than a torture. Honking, air pollution, traffic mess, mismanagement, and stress can frustrate anyone.
At Sanat Nagar crossing we have a signal, which is overhead to the lane concerned. One needs to sit over the ceiling of his car to keep a watch on it. Forget about smart city, Srinagar is an absolute mess where we often see traffic police with sticks like shepherds. Maybe some people they are supposed to deal with are worst than animals.
I wonder how do cops in toeing van choose which car to take away among hundreds of wrongly parked vehicles in city hubs. As a matter of fact, they can take a single vehicle per round only. Helpless at the menace, they too get stuck in jams and turn on their siren which is supposed to be used only in an emergency, adding to the noise pollution at an exponential level. Unprofessional use of sirens has resulted in a considerable number of accidents especially among new drivers or drivers that are easily frightened. They are also a nuisance to people who live in and around cities as police vehicles with blaring sirens is a common sight.
Youngsters should come forward to take an opportunity out of this muddle. Due to rising unemployment cheap, easy and quality manpower is available in the state. An out of the box idea is need of the hour, vehicles should be collected in the morning at a requested location in the vicinity, and then dropped back. The owner should be able to request for pickup, locate, and order his vehicle back by a mobile application. This must be reliable and affordable such that every single person gives his vehicle and this absolute chaos turns into bliss.
(The author is perusing Post Graduation in Advanced Construction Management at National Institute of Construction Management and Research, Pune.)