The roads in Srinagar are in pretty bad shape. It is impossible to find a stretch of road without potholes which is making driving through the city or for that matter even through the Valley a bone-breaking experience. But the state government seems immune to the situation. The condition of the roads is only getting worse by the day. While senior administrative functionaries hardly need to use the roads and travel in high-end vehicles when they have to, the millions of the common folk who travel to their work daily have hardly this option.
What makes the situation further unsustainable is that the bad roads have a direct bearing on the economy. More so, when the streets in Srinagar – ironically also the tourism capital of the state are in the worst state of disrepair. The travel to Lal Chowk from the airport or from other entry routes to the city brings this appalling reality home. The daily reports of the trials and tribulations of the people on their way to the city centre are scary. The roads are taking a heavy toll not only on the travelling public but also on the fitness of the vehicles. The damage to the vehicles is the most conspicuous fallout of the bad roads. It is already costing the people millions through increased delays, extra fuel costs and auto repair bills.
But except for the occasional official assurances, there is little evidence of even an incipient change on the ground. On some roads, the government has resorted to the adhoc filling of the potholes with dust and gravel to make them motorable but the frequent rains send the situation back to square one, often making things worse than before. The lack of drainage has also contributed to the mess, often turning stretches of roads into outsized poodles of water during rain and then into muddy, pothole-filled obstacle courses.
If there is anything that deserves urgent government attention, it is to make the roads at least reasonably motorable. The awful state of the roads in the winter capital arguably makes Srinagar one of the worst cities for traffic in the country. And this state of affairs is hardly affordable for a state that depends on the tourism to invigorate its battered economy.
In an attempt to pass the buck the state government is now blaming the contractors for refusing to carry out the repair work pending clearance of their bills. The contractors have a legitimate grievance too. The government owes them more than Rs 1000 crore for their completed contracts. The government is in a position to resolve the issue and get the contractors working. Further delay in repairs will only worsen the situation.