Beginning Monday, traffic in Srinagar has grown exponentially leading to frequent gridlocks at numerous spots, sometimes ironically even on the flyovers which were supposed to ease the movement of vehicles. It takes a long time for commuters to reach their destinations. On Monday, the situation was out of control. It took more than an hour for people to travel from Lal Chowk to Batamaloo and another hour from Batamaloo to Qamerwari. Similarly, commuters were stranded for hours together at the road intersections in the city. This messy state of affairs seems difficult to explain considering it has followed after three months of shutdown following the revocation of Article 370. Even though, earlier too private traffic was plying regardless, it didn’t lead to jams. But now situation is changing. An ever-increasing number of vehicles is pouring out on to the roads which is hampering the smooth movement. What is more, the growing volume of traffic is strangling Srinagar, with Lal Chowk facing the brunt of it. According to a study conducted by the Traffic Department some years ago, at least 62 percent of the Valley’s traffic enters Lal Chowk and its vicinity. This has rendered the city centre more or less unmotorable. Growing number of choke points frequently hold up the traffic, creating an urgent need for the government to look for solutions to cut congestion.
However, the problem didn’t start on last Monday. J&K has witnessed an unprecedented growth in the volume of traffic in recent years. In comparison, the roads have not expanded commensurately in length and width. The traffic has also become messier. Part due to incompetence of the traffic personnel and part due to a severe shortage of staff, the Traffic Department has found the problem difficult to handle.
Pathetically inadequate infrastructure is the other problem which is hampering the smooth flow of traffic: there is a yawning gap between the increasing volume of the traffic and the required road length. And this gap looks impossible to bridge anytime soon. But considering the gravity of the problem, Government will need to act in right earnest. Traffic department needs to work on many fronts to bring some order back to our streets. To start with, we need to promote a culture of road discipline in the UT. In the prevailing situation, every motorist is a law unto himself. We need a complete ovderhaul in how we administer the traffic. And this will not happen unless the Traffic department is adequately staffed and the violators of the traffic rules are held to account. New Government headed by Lieutenant General Girish Chander Murmu too has to act on infrastructure and administration front to change the situation for the better. And its time starts now.