The schools across Valley are scheduled to reopen across Kashmir from March 1 of 2023 after a two month long winter break. With the opening of schools, all the roads within the city and its outskirts, usually remain congested given the increase in the flow of traffic particularly due to the schools buses ferrying children to their schools in morning and back to their homes in afternoon.
The Degree colleges in Valley reopened on February 15 which has added to the flow of the traffic particularly in the city. But the reopening of schools is likely to throw a major challenge for the government with regard to the regulation of traffic.
This year, the regulation of traffic within the city will be a major challenge for the traffic police department within the city as the work on Smart City project in Srinagar is going on in full swing. It is already causing traffic jams across Srinagar city. With schools reopening, there will be additional flow of school buses on roads which are feared to congest roads further. Additionally, pre-summer tourist season will also pick up in March ending.
The department has already directed school authorities to gear up for the academic session while the annual examinations are lined up to be conducted in March so that the session starts in time.
There are around 900 schools in Srinagar including over 554 government schools and 404 private schools functioning in Srinagar district with an enrollment of 173282 students-- 36697 students in government schools and 136585 students in private schools.
These days, the whole city centre remains congested with the traffic given the work going on in the City centre. For a commoner it has become a nightmare to drive within the city.
Srinagar city is dug up almost everywhere. From the city centre in Lal Chowk to the Dal lake and other areas, men and machinery are at work.
The timing for starting the work on the mega Smart City Project was already being debated all over but now with the reopening of schools, it will come with many challenges to regulate the traffic movement within the city and its outskirts. As the work is going on in full swing it is expected that the city is likely to jammed for some months more.
Unlike previous years, the formula of issuing diktat to city schools in order to avoid traffic congestion during office hours will not work this time. Firstly, the civil secretariat is almost functioning from Jammu office and secondly every time, the government cannot put the students at the receiving end all the time by forcing them to reach their school during wee hours to ensure smooth flow of traffic, which otherwise has become a thing of the past in city given the traffic mess created due to the work going on at the Smart City project.
All this calls upon traffic authorities to immediately draft a traffic decongestion plan so that children do not suffer due to traffic snarls in Srinagar.
The traffic jam in the Central Business District extending from Dalgate to Batamaloo has a ripple effect on all sides.
Besides students, all the office goers have to mandatorily reach their offices on time to ensure their biometric attendance. But, it has become next to impossible for office goers posted in the city to reach their offices on time these days as the city witnesses traffic gridlock at every spot.
"With the schools scheduled to open from March 1, one can imagine how difficult it would be for students and staff to commute with almost all main roads dug up for the smart city project. Frequent and prolonged traffic jams in the city has made travelling extremely cumbersome," said a college teacher, wishing not to be named.
Employees and students do not reach their places in time.
"Earlier, the authorities used to manage the spring/summer traffic surge by regulating the timing and movement of civil secretariat and school buses. This time around, however, these frustrating jams will continue as long as the roads remain dug up and I don't see this work getting over any time soon," said a higher secondary school teacher, wishing anonymity.
The smart city project awarded to Srinagar in 2017 has June 2023 as the deadline. But it is unlikely that the project will be completed within the stipulated time period.
"It is no longer about the few usual bottleneck spots, most of the busiest routes are witnessing frustrating traffic jams and the addition of school buses is going to make it worse," the school teacher added.
Besides junior class exams which will be held at school level, the JK Board of School Education (BOSE) has already notified its date sheet to hold the annual examination of students from class 10th to 12th.
But given the traffic mess in Srinagar, the examinees will be under stress and will have to bear the brunt of the traffic mess which is likely to put a pressure on them and affect their mental peace. Ultimately, the situation can hinder them from performing well in exams.
Also, the tourism season will pick up from March onwards thus adding to the flow of traffic on the busy roads of Srinagar and its outskirts as well.
Keeping all the aspects into consideration, regulation of traffic vis-à-vis reopening of schools, is a very serious issue which needs immediate intervention of the authorities.
The government should not think only about altering the school timings keeping in view the sleep cycle of the toddlers and other primary class students. Even if it seems to be a solution to overcome the congestion, the school timing should be changed in such a way that kids who can't bear traffic jams amid summer heat, are not put at the receiving end by disturbing their sleep cycle as well.
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