Terror on the roads

Terror on the roads

Traffic is increasingly becoming a problem

India’s Road Transport Minister Nitin Gatkare said that there are 17 deaths on India’s roads every hour. By all means, it is a whopping figure. In J&K a total of 5867 road accidents took place during 2014 whileas during 2015, the number was 5850. Unfortunately 919 lives (757 males and 162 females) were lost in the State during the previous year. This rising trend is casting a big question mark on the existing traffic management and transport system. While as the government is in the dock, the common man can hardly be absolved from his responsibilities. 

 

In Srinagar City alone during 2015, there were 435 road accidents reported. During February, 2015, Governor of the State showed his concern about the rising trend of accidents and issued directions making specific mention about improving road architecture and conduct of safety audit for identification of black spots. The situation has not improved which reflects adversely on the functioning of Road Safety Committees headed by respective Deputy Commissioners.

Discussing traffic problems in Srinagar or elsewhere in the State is like opening a can of worms. It has become a perennial problem and its solution seems to be far from sight due to lackadaisical attitude of all stake holders. With the huge figures of death and injuries caused due to road accidents, the damages attributed to militancy are relegated to a much lower position.

Be it a wazwan gathering or a condolence meeting, discussion on traffic woes in Srinagar is unavoidable. If someone cannot keep on to his time, he conveniently attributes delay to a traffic jam (though invariably it is slow and sluggish movement of vehicles and not a traffic jam). A lot is being written about traffic malaise in social media and in print media but to no avail. Traffic has become commuter’s curse and citizens pain. Who is responsible for this malady? Everyone including the Government, General public and all sections of society shall have to do a lot of explaining. 

Over a period of time traffic police has failed to evolve and the entire system seems to be in disarray. Traffic men are daily getting brickbats. Undoubtedly they are suffering from lack of good reputation and inept attitude to tackle the problems. The traffic police staff is drafted from various wings of the Police department on deputation basis. Most often politicians intervene and get their favourites posted to traffic police for obvious reasons. In day to day functioning the traffic police is caught in VIP syndrome and “Lal Bati Culture” inviting criticism from general public. Most of these cops on the roads are looking fatigued, under trained and lost in the traffic din. Ironically the organization with a very thin cadre of 1481 has only 1126 police personnel actually posted leaving a gap of 355 men.

 

In a written reply to a clubbed question by the two MLCs during the current session of the legislative council, the Government said that registration of around 3 lakh vehicles (1.43 lakh in Kashmir Region and 2.11 lakh vehicles in Jammu Region) during the past three financial years alongwith entry of 1.82 lakh tourist and commercial vehicles into the State has mainly contributed to major congestion of the two capital cities i.e. Srinagar and Jammu (GK June-15). 

A lot is being said about the defective system of issuing driving licenses. Rumours are floating that large number of driving licenses are fake and manipulated. There are twisted notions about who shall be vested with the authority of issuing driving licenses i.e. Transport department or the traffic police. Prosperity and generous loan schemes by various banks are tremendously adding to the already huge number of automobiles on the roads. The Government has to act decisively and fast to grapple with this problem.

Solution to the problem is revolving around four Es. Establishment (Organizational man-power). Education (Awareness campaign). Engineering (Relating to roads). Enforcement (Rule of law)

All the four aspects have been ignored for a long time now and lack of proper planning is adding to the ever increasing mess. In spite of phenomenal progress in technology and areas of modernization, the traffic police has failed to sync itself with new ideas, gadgets, machinery & equipment. This is a problem which is not related to a caste or region. A day will dawn when Government’s success will be measured by an ordinary voter by the quality of managing vital issues like traffic. 

 

(The author is a retired IPS officer and former member of PSC, J&K.)