Traffic chaos in Srinagar!

Waterlogging caused by morning downpour led to a serpentine traffic Jam on MA Road in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar on Thursday, 01 August 2019. Mubashir Khan

Traffic disorder is not new to this city of bridges. For almost a decade now Srinagar roads are full of confusion. And at the outset, I should mention it frankly and certainly that now it is more a people created problem. The messy traffic on Srinagar streets instead of efficiency has slowed down the pace. Very often traffic gridlocks, significantly contribute to air and noise pollution in the city. Surely, traffic regulating authorities cannot be absolved of their responsibilities but blaming them entirely will be unfair. Unruly drivers, both public and private, arrogant pedestrians, and compromising authorities have created a situation of a free-for-all. Accidents have become a common affair on roads. The footpath and street vendors further complicate the existing chaotic situation. Almost on every road, street, and crossings street vendors have occupied roads, footpaths and other areas and structures otherwise meant for smooth traffic and pedestrian movement.

Here everyone thinks of, and demands his own rights and interestingly, certain people have their own definition of ‘rights’. More often the drivers have no regard for other drivers and especially for pedestrians. Imagine the situation when most of the drivers are suffering from haughtiness, and flout all rules and regulations; pedestrians having no regard for traffic signals and signs! Government vehicles and cars with vanity registration number plates are the worst traffic violators. As if they have exclusive rights on roads and the right to park at any place. The anywhere parking mania has now gripped many people. Even no-parking signs and on prowl tow away vehicles don’t prove a deterrent for them. Pedestrians are no less offensive. They can be seen walking in the middle of the road and crossing while traffic signals are on. With the non serious and outrageous attitude of most of the traffic stakeholders, the traffic regulating authorities too have become lazy and complacent. Their only preferred concern remains, smooth passage for VIPs and other dignitaries. I have very rarely seen traffic police making cases against traffic rules violators. Instead they challan people for nonpayment of tax, pollution, and other violation that barely pertain to basic traffic rules. Checking tax payments and pollution certificates is actually not a priority while managing the traffic is. Fixing of targets for fines and achieving that, in any case, is not the right way to mend the arrogant drivers and traffic rules violators. Regulating authorities should chalk out a comprehensive plan to implement traffic rules and punish the violators. The existing traffic rules necessarily require a review and change so that it proves effective deterrents against violators. Beyond people and police quality, roads and other infrastructure is a must for smooth traffic movement. Not properly designed and bad roads and encroachments are also responsible for traffic snarls.

Anyways, our traffic problem is multidimensional with three important stakeholders— the people, traffic regulators, and R&B (roads and buildings) department. Unless we as law-abiding people will not change our attitude and behaviour on roads there will be no peace on roads but only traffic jams, accidents, and road rages. We have not only to cooperate with authorities but change our mindset. We should definitely stand up for our rights but only after we fulfil our duties. This traffic mess is leading us nowhere. Out of it we lose our precious time, money and on occasions our temper. Road rage brawls are very common on our roads. We hit each other instead of hitting the right node in our head. Traffic regulating authorities have to change for good when people change their arrogant behaviour. They have to treat everyone either VIP or common-man equally. No discrimination! They should not hide behind shading signals while no VIP is around and roar like lions when sirens blow. Traffic police should firmly chase the traffic violators with a strong and justified yardstick of law. Authorities have to streamline its roads and buildings department with an infusion of new technology and techniques of road laying. All bottlenecks and encroachments need to be removed from roads. Properly designated stops for passenger carriers and parking places have to be marked. Unless all stakeholders make visible positive contributions nothing is going to change on our roads. The sooner it is done better it will be for all of us.