Massive traffic jams are reported on National Highway from Jammu to Srinagar. This is the key link for the three regions of the State particularly Kashmir and Ladakh. In fact it is the life line of the State. Normally, this life line should have been converted into the most crucial highway in the country keeping in mind its strategic importance. Why that was not done for last seventy years is a big question and speaks of intransigence and inefficiency of our policy planners. China could build the historic Karakorum Highway connecting Xinjiang with Pakistan via Gilgit in a couple of years but our policy planners did not even have the vision, leave aside building a six lane all weather highway that would connect Kashmir and Ladakh regions to the world outside.
It was Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had realized the importance of this vital road link and approved its four lanning. But given the intricacies of our administrative system and the red tape, the work of four lanning could not keep its time schedule. It has been going on at snail’s pace. When it will actually become functional is a matter of surmise. Nevertheless the work is going on and of course rather in an unplanned way. There are some patches that are under reconstruction meaning widening of the road to make it of four lanes. For example, the stretches from Udhampur to Chenani tunnel or from Digdol to Ramban are under construction. As the work is in progress and debris is lying on the sides of the road, it leads to traffic jam for long time. Commuters travelling from Jammu to Srinagar have been complaining that instead of six or seven hours of journey it takes them 12 to 13 hours to cover the journey. It is because of traffic jams at various places along the highway. According to IGP Traffic the reason why there is traffic jam is that firstly the road is under widening work at various places that makes it narrow and therefore only one way traffic is allowed. Secondly, the small cars usually try to overtake the trucks and this is the main cause of traffic jams. Thirdly, there is mismanagement on the part of traffic police that hinders smooth flow of traffic along the highway. For example there is a mess of job at the road toll post and it takes a vehicle more than an hour to clear the road toll. The traffic police could have looked to this problem and removed the bottleneck. Similarly, there are so many bottlenecks that a commuter needs to clear. Why does not the road traffic wing think of innovative measures to reduce traffic jams?
We agree that when road widening programme is in progress it will reduce the width of the road thus shrinking the space for the movement of vehicles. But the traffic police can and should regulate the movement by not allowing smaller vehicles to overtake at any and every place they like. Secondly, the traffic police can shift the movement of trucks to more convenient hours when there will be less of traffic pressure. It is true that traffic police cannot be deployed on every kilometer of the road but we need to think about innovative means to streamline traffic on this highway.
In view of the fact that widening of the highway has to be continued and it is likely to take a long time maybe a year or two, the traffic police should draw a roadmap of how traffic jams can be reduced and act upon them. It should have a long term plan of regulating uninterrupted traffic along this most vital national highway.