Kashmir Truth Be Told Blog
Yus neereth gassan, pheereth cha yevaano: morda che gassan zinde (Kashmiri saying)

5/14/08

Traffic in Kashmir

Driving experience in Kashmir can be summed up in one word - Chaotic!

Although most of us would like to believe that Kashmir is considered as one of the premier tourist destinations in India, and the state government spends not less than 20-30 lakhs per annum to advertise Kashmir as a 'Paradise on Earth' where tourists can relax and enjoy nautre in its pristine glory; however, our nightmarish traffic might be leaving most of our tourists with a bad taste in their mouth.

Many visitors and locals are left wondering whether we really have a government in Kashmir to take care of something as basic and necessary as a traffic management system or whether we have a free-for-all anarchy where the louder your voice and the more muscle power you have to keep honking your horn, the more your chances of getting out of the omnipresent traffic jams.

Although the picture I presented above is pretty gloomy, it is not very far-fetched. Try driving from Budshah Chowk to Habakadal or catch a bus from Maisuma and you will notice the sad state of affairs when it comes to the horrendous traffic we have to tackle every day just to get to our destinations. And if you still doubt my description of the traffic chaos in Srinagar, try crossing the road at mid-day in Lalchowk. I am certain most readers will agree with me even though it is the month of May; however the picture gets nastier come tourist season in july and even worse with busloads of Yatris and tourists arriving in their cars.

Driving around Srinagar should not be analogous to going in battle where you have to kiss your loved ones goodbye everytime you step in a car or want to cross the road thinking that might be the last time you see them. After all our's is not the only crowded city - it doesnt even come close. There are much more populous cities around India with perhaps ten times more cars plying the roads with little or no traffic chaos even in rush-hour. The city planners and the local governments of other tourist cities such as Goa and Bangalore used effective traffic management techniques to tackle this foreseeable problem. The reason I call it a foreseeable problem is that it doesnt take a 'peer' to foresee that more cars on the roads creates more traffic jams which might warrant the attention of the state government to invest in a viable traffic management system.

All it would take to fix this is an investment in a traffic light system, some cooperation on the part of our drivers, and lastly some good non-corrupt traffic police. I would like to elaborate on this common-sense solution. I believe it will take time to fix our traffic system but that should'nt be a deterrent to delay fixing it. We have to start somewhere.

Just to display what a mockery our present traffic laws are, how many people are aware what our present speed limit is within the city, are there any signs to remind drivers to slow down to the legal speed limit? I am certain a majority of our drivers would'nt be able to answer that. Yet so many precious lives are lost on our roads because of speeding drivers. This is particularly of concern in our downtown areas, where because of lack of open spaces, young kids are left with playing on the streets, and that is a disaster waiting to happen. An enforceable speed limit would greatly minimise accidents.

The reason I mentioned it should be an 'enforceable' speed limit is that we need non-corrupt traffic police who have the candor to write-up bad drivers and do their jobs properly and not see a traffic-law violator as an opportunity to make an extra 20 rupees in his pocket. Corruption is a sign of a decadent society, and Kashmiris are better than that.

Lastly, we all need to be responsible drivers and we all have to cooperate collectively to fix our ailing traffic system. We can do that by calling upon the government to invest in traffic lights and traffic signs which will clearly instruct the driver where to stop, what the speed limit is, and where the pedestrian crossing are. Violators will be fined and if we are caught violating a traffic rule, we must act as responsible citizens of Kashmir, and pay our fines, instead of attempting to bribe the traffic officer. I strongly believe that if we were to act on this common sense solution, our traffic woes would be greatly minimised.

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