The Rising Kashmir laments how careless driving and poor road conditions collide to create a Kashmiri disaster
Jammu and Kashmir is facing plethora of traffic problems – from the high accident rate to frequent traffic jams. Hardly a day passes off without a road accident in the state, often resulting in casualties. In Srinagar district alone, 193 people have lost their lives in over 1600 road accidents in the last three and a half years while the number of injured stands at 1500. According to top officials of traffic police department, every year there is 50 per cent increase in vehicular traffic.
The exponential increase in the number of vehicles is also accompanied with the increase in the number of violations like wrong parking. According to traffic police, there are over three lakh vehicles registered in Srinagar city, but during the peak tourist season, the number touches six lakh vehicles every day. Even as the vehicular traffic has increased manifold, the width of our roads remains the same as many decades back. This, among other factors, is making roads unsafe or too congested.
The traffic department has been struggling to regulate the traffic and check violations due to lack of adequate manpower. As per the officials, Traffic Police has a workforce of 250 personnel presently, which roughly puts one man in charge of around 5000 vehicles during the summer season when the tourist rush is at its peak in the valley. To manage such a huge rush of vehicles is a herculean task in itself.
We might still have made up for the dearth of manpower with infrastructure and technology, but unfortunately we are lagging on both fronts. We don’t even have functional traffic signals. Zebra crossings are not well maintained and are painted usually just before the darbar offices move to Srinagar. Most of the roads are full of potholes posing inconvenience to the people and sometimes even leading to accidents. According to a survey carried by Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, drivers are at fault in most of the accident cases. The findings hold true for J&K where the offenders often go scot free. The complaints about some traffic cops taking bribe to let the offenders free cannot be undermined. The traffic department must ensure discipline among its men and act tough against corrupt cops.
According to official figures, 284 accidents have been recorded involving Sumos and mini-busses while two-wheeler riders have been culprits in 236 accidents reported in last three years. The actual number may be even more since many cases of accidents go unreported unless some serious offence is committed. With its ‘Make It Safe’ campaign, Rising Kashmir is exploring the above and many other aspects of the traffic scenario in an effort to build consensus on the need for making the roads safer. Even if we can succeed in generating a meaningful debate about the issue, we will consider our campaign a successful beginning for the noble cause.