Most of the towns in all the districts of Kashmir province have one thing is common and that is the vehicular traffic congestion. More recently, in the last decade especially, with the surge in economic activities and sharp climb in the number of vehicles swarming the narrow, dilapidated roads have added to the miseries on various counts. With the staggering losses in the economic terms, the traffic clogging hazards on health, its ramifications on the general psychology of a common man and the mental and physical agony cannot be discounted. Going by economic terms only, If the loss of 'productive time per person' wasted in the traffic jam is accounted, the figures would need a expert chartered accountant with dedicated staff to calculate. On a rather conservative analysis with an amateur flip and flick of figures, taking Srinagar city as a sample, with a roughly working population who usually, as a pattern, get stuck in traffic jams, as pessimistically at only 10 % of the total population that stands at 1250000 odd souls as per 2011 census, we get a raw figure of 125000 persons. On an average one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening is lost to traffic jams. Taking hourly income of a manual labourer, at approximately Rs. 50/hour as a least earning parameter, the daily loss per person comes out to Rs.100, making it Rs 20000 per year on an average, if only 200 working days are accounted. With this conservative figure Srinagar city alone accounts for an astonishing loss of Rs. 2500,000,000 per year. The arithmetic and statistic estimations would fail if the fuel lost on account of standing vehicles in the traffic blockages and the fuel lost in the slow movement of vehicles in their 'higher gears' is accounted for.
There is a new spin in the scheme of things now. The cross roads that were of late being adorned with aesthetic fountains to add to the selling proposition of city thriving supposedly on tourism are being converted into the zigzag concrete monstrous flyovers. Instead of copying things from other cities, a simple computation of figures on a leaf of paper would explain how widening of a road is far better a proposition, both aesthetically and economically, than designing big overhead roads in the state like ours. Time, sweat, blood, energy apart, aesthetics apart, new engineering skills on linear expansion of roads apart, innovative traffic planning and management apart, the cost of acquisition of land and structures along the fringes of existing roads would balance at a far lesser amount than mixing brick and mortar to construct the repulsive structures. Without going into brainstorming sessions, without looking into the pluses and minuses of options available, without delineating the opportunity cost while conceiving the project and without measuring the impact cost in financial terms while determining the feasibility of a project, the sleeves are rolled and the plunge is taken just because some international bank is ready to shell out the loan or central government is financing the project.
Traffic management does not involve regulation of traffic alone. This responsibility cannot be squarely shifted to the shoulders of traffic cops. Traffic management involves whole hog analysis of the parameters that influence the flow of traffic. This includes the width of roads, condition of roads, lane driving, speed management, management of traffic at intersections, level of traffic flow on a route at a particular time, its management, parking facilities, designated Bus stops and many other factor. These factors, however, are under the control of different departments so there seem to be gross impairment in the system gravely lacking synergy. Unity of command in this situation is the first thing to adopt. A department to which all the departments involved would be accountable needs to be established and some 'experts' on traffic management and regulation need to be roped in. Mutations and permutations need to be thrashed vigorously by 'qualified experts' in the field, without seeking suggestions from any tom, dick and harry, to devise and suggest the short term and long term facilitations for traffic regulation, its management, new infrastructure development and the maintenance of already existing infrastructure within the strict outlined domains duly coherent with the heritage, culture and beauty of Kashmir.
(The writer is a post-graduate in Management Studies from the University of Kashmir)