Jammu Parking: Plans on Papers only

Rajan Gandhi
Jammu, the City of Temples and now winter capital of UT of J&K, is in fact a symbol of old values and modern aspirations with a distinct identity due to its demography, heritage, location, links and has shown urban agglomeration with exponential growth rate mainly after migration from Kashmir resulting in rapid unorganized growth of residential , commercial, institutional development with the result city experienced a large scale development on private land around and within city limits resulting in acute congestion and ‘Parking Problem’.
Old City area is highly congested with virtually no space for expansion but still old buildings at different bazaars are being demolished and multistory shopping complex are coming up defying Master Plan with impunity and under very nose of JMC. This problem is further complicated by footpath encroachments and despite High Court directions no respite is there making it virtually impossible for any traffic movement without huge jams. Situation at extensions which constitute Gandhi Nagar, Bakshi Nagar, Rehari, New Plot, Canal Road, Talab Tillo, Rail Head Complex, Trikuta Naga , Channi Himmat etc is no different as day by day turning of residences into commercial usage without parking area again with impunity has resulted into vehicles being parked on the roads itself haphazardly resulting in jams and chaos during peak hours. The old city problems are further complicated as it attracts large influx of floating population from the whole region coming for education, medical facilities, business, shopping thereby adding to the already existing traffic and parking problems.
Manifold increase in vehicles, almost double as compared to Srinagar, with no new parking being developed in last two decades further complicates the traffic woes of Jammu City. Though one or two multilevel parking have been developed but those are too little and mostly slots are occupied by permanent customers rather than moving ones. No focus has been made on the basic issues till now like pricing and travel alternatives, encouraging public transport system, incentivizing the sharing of office vehicles by officials working in same office establishment or zones to reduce parking requirements, development of conservative parking requirement like walking and bicycling. City has been divided into Commercial Use Zone mainly old City Area, Mixed Use Zone- Canal area, Rehari ,Sarwal, Janipur , Bakshi Nagar, Janipur, Gandhi Nagar, Rail Head Complex , Predominantly residential Colonies like Channi, Sainik Colony, Trikuta Nagar, Roop Nagar, Bantalab, Greater Kailash, Sidhra and lastly Predominantly Transport and Warehousing Zone like Transport Nagar, Fruit market, Rail Head Complex, Bus Stand and Ware House as purely commercial areas, but all these zones are on papers only as no serious efforts have been made till now to solve the parking problems till date. No differential in parking fee at different zones to discourage individual transport usage, no effort to acquire land to develop auto and matador stand or for that matter even bus stand leave alone car parking and the resultant chaos is even beyond one’s imagination. Whole Parade Road is matador parking, whole Mubarak Mandi, Circular Road, DC office, lanes/by lanes of city as car parking to the extent that even bridge like Rehari and Civil Secretariat area with prominent No Parking Zone boards have become parking areas. Parking mess at BC road is well known but no effort to plan and develop anything is right now in the pipeline. Such is the scarcity of parking that working people are using GMC parking as day time parking for their vehicles leaving no space for patients. Right now private parking at railway station is also not operational due to security reasons without any alternative causing great inconvenience to the commuters and discouraging use of trains as mass transport for office goers to Udhampur , Kathua, Samba. Scenes outside Super Speciality Hospital and KC PVR is no different as both have no parking facilities of their own with the result vehicles are parked on road itself causing huge traffic jams. Situation is no different at Wave Mall or Radisson Hotel as no sufficient parking is available and these two commercial buildings are at main chowks of national highway with the result parking on the highway itself causing traffic jams and inconvenience to general public. Gole Market, Apsara Road are no different as again main roads are used as parking, how this residential area has been developed into full fledged commercial area flouting every norm of master plan, of course with official patronage. What can be more tragic that there is no parking for passengers at Jammu Airport as whatever space is available inside parking is utilized by staff or few VIP ones and all this is despite the fact that Airport Authority has already paid for almost 27 kanals of land for developing parking just in front of airport but till date land has not been handed over to airport, matter is in court now and Divisional Commissioner has been asked to appear in person on next date.
All these zones and schemes of short term parking, medium term parking, long term parking, permanent/ overnight parking are on papers only as no rule is followed and nexus of officials and parking contractors are working in tandem under the very eyes of authorities. Whole one lane of main Parade road has been turned into parking, how and why nobody knows or don’t want to answer. Such is the chaos right now that even main Tawi Bridge has been turned into night parking by buses and commercial vehicles against the norms of bridges. How banks, government offices like ERA also come up at places without parking as there are no checks or corrective measures. Banquet Halls, restaurants, malls and even recreational parks are using main national highway or main roads as parking without any punitive action. When such actions become routine with no fear of law then it’s going towards anarchy which is very much visible on Jammu roads. No educational institution can come up without ample parking space of its own but a look at all educational institute around Jammu except few, picture is really pathetic, what are the law enforcing agencies like JMC, JDA or police doing, sleeping on paper work or working under some pressure or some vested interests. Most glaring lapse is upcoming legislative complex in the heart of city on the Doctor’s lane parking thereby causing more mayhem and chaos with no planning in mind at all. All this has been done despite constraint of space for parking even for escort security vehicles and from time to time authorities have tried to encroach on public parks like Zanana Park, Parade Ground and even Girls School at City Chowk but timely intervention by High Court and public has foiled forcibly acquisition of these places by government but authorities have till date found no solution to this problem and this shows the seriousness of departments involved.
Now the question is our town planners have any workable, plan of this menace or its just ‘Chalta Hae’ attitude which is virtually choking Jammu City. Heavy registration tax on second and third vehicles should be immediately imposed to discourage multi vehicles in the same family. Enforcement is the key to maintain discipline of parking and as such whole city should be immediately divided into zones and each zone should have a police officer assigned responsible for ensuring traffic discipline without any political interference at all. There are laws according to which all commercial buildings like malls, multiplexes must have 35% area under Municipal limits and 30% outside its territory, hotels, restaurants, lodges, cinema halls, business buildings, high rise building, residential apartments, hospitals, institutions or industrial buildings, schools and colleges must have 30 % parking areas within city limits and 20% outside it, but are these laws followed or they are just on papers. Regular annual survey of traffic volume, parking available, new vehicles getting registered, parking on road and off road, fee charged, upcoming parking needs along with studying parking characteristics is the need of hour and depending on these surveys further parking lots should be planned and no project should be cleared at any cost without mandatory parking space or else departmental action should be immediately initiated against the officials assigned with the task. Exemplary departmental action is the need of the hour if we want to have a Smart City Jammu or else it will remain a dream only on papers.
It is interesting to mention that all these plans are part of JMC Parking Policy vide notification number 03 of 2011 dated 21st of November 2011 and Jammu Master plan 2032 which clearly plans to shift some of the government offices to create more parking places but nothing has been done on ground till now. Further there can be no meaningful implementation in any society if the people themselves are kept out of any process as their cooperation is essential to create sense of discipline to obey traffic and parking rules as such cooperation of people is a must so make them aware of parking rules. Together we can, together we will succeed and first step is a must to climb any number of stairs but we have to start from somewhere someday, why not today?