Dr. S. Sapru
Traffic on the roads of Jammu is attracting lot of attention these days because the traffic rules are being attempted to be put in place. The rules have all along been violated, are being violated and shall continue to be violated in times to come. Only the magnitude of violations may change. While the present IGP traffic is putting in all the efforts under his command to set the system right but I have a hunch that he shall sooner than not face the same fate as Mr Benerjee, Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar in late 70’s, (as penned down by Shiban Khabri in his article titled “Basant Rath a la Banerjee”, published in Daily excelsior of March 10, 2018.) or for that matter what any other upright officer faces across the country.
Traffic weeks are observed every year, normally in the first week of January, with the purpose of educating people and even the traffic constabulary about the traffic rules and regulations. One such week was observed 25 years back in 1993 during the period January 4th to 10th 1993. On the concluding day of the traffic week a function was held in Hotel Asia Jammu, which was attended by the senior officers of the Traffic departments and the prominent citizens of Jammu and covered by the media, mostly print media. Amongst other activities a report based on a survey was also presented on this day, salient features of the report were published in a local newspaper of January 10, 1993.
The Survey report under question was based on the responses received from the public, to a questionnaire formulated for the purpose. The sample size was fairly large, around 10,000, and therefore the outcome was genuinely authentic. The main observations were as under:-
* While 40 percent people felt extremely bothered by traffic, 35 percent felt moderately bothered and 25 percent not bothered.
* Even while indoors 30 % people felt bothered by the smoke and exhaust fumes.
* While 90 percent of the people feared from the danger of traffic, 98 percent felt unsafe walking on the roads of Jammu.
* While the main fear of walking on the roads was attributed to the speeding traffic, quite a sizable section attributed it to bad road conditions, excessive traffic and slackness on the part of traffic police.
* The maximum pedestrian fear was attributed to the way mini-buses or matadors ply.
* Even as a passenger a sizable section felt unsafe due to the speed of the automobile and unmanaged traffic conditions.
* Nearly 100 percent of the people were of the opinion that over loads should not be allowed, yet 77 percent of them conceded to travelling in overloads.
* Around 80 percent of the people felt irritated by the exhaust fumes-while waiting for the transport at different stops.
* Speed breakers were seen as a greater threat than a relief because of their bad design and lack of identification.
Some of the recommendations those were made at that time were:-
* Mini buses be made to stop at their designated stops only.
* Wrong parking be discouraged.
* General bus stand be shifted to East of Tawi.
* Zebra crossings be highlighted and police personnel located near them to streamline the pedestrian and traffic movement.
* Subways and flyovers be made, which was felt to be very necessary for the otherwise narrow roads of Jammu.
* Two more bridges be constructed, one was already under construction (near Gujjar Nagar) and the second was proposed near “Nehar”, which has also come up.
* Specialized training be imparted to the traffic police constabulary confirming to the changing requirements of the city and its citizens, anticipating the future scenario which may emerge in the future.
* Periodic reviews and course corrections.
Now what has changed during the last 25 years?
* Population of District Jammu is projected as around 20 lakhs as of now (2018) while it was 15.29 lakhs in 2011. To this figure add around 3 lakh migrants from Kashmir and also the hilly terrains of Jammu.
* With the carving out of 4 new districts in Jammu division the land area of Jammu district is reduced from 3097 sq km to 2342 sq km.
* The population density has increased from 513 persons per sq km in 2001 to 653 persons per sq km in 2011 which is projected to be around 850 at present (2018).
* The roads have hardly widened. On the contrary they have shrunk as most of the vehicles are parked on the roads thereby impeding the traffic movement.
* As per the J&K transport department records (2017) Jammu District has a total of 6.70 lakh vehicles and two wheelers on its roads out of which we have around 7,000 buses, 8,000 Matadors, 35,000 trucks, 6,500 taxis, 19,000 three-wheelers, 160,000 cars, 6,500 jeeps, 415,000 two-wheelers and around 17000 others.
And on the development side to absorb this expansion/growth what have we attained:-
* A flyover has been constructed which connects the road from Shakuntla theater to the Tawi bridge. This fly over was supposedly constructed to decongest the traffic within the city which has not been possible because no matadors ply on flyover and this fly over is mainly used by small vehicles. The congestion at Jewel Chowk continues.
* Of late another flyover has been completed which starts from Tawi bridge and ends on the Gandhi Nagar Road near Women’s college, decongesting perhaps, Bikram Chowk. How I wish the planners had it in their mind that the Satwari Chowk, which is a traffic bottle neck be decongested such that the route to Airport be cleared. This flyover could have been extended up to Satwari Chowk. Furthermore, even this flyover is not used by Matadors or buses, but only by small vehicles.
* A Jammu by-pass road has come up which is mainly used by truckers plying to Srinagar.
* Two more bridges over the river Tawi have been made operational one near Gujjar Nagar and the second near “Nehar”. (Connecting Bhagwati Nagar with the Ware House). Unfortunately the planning has been such that the feeder roads to these bridges are very narrow and congested and therefore hardly any traffic is frequented on these bridges.
* We have added around 400,000 two wheelers which cause a traffic mess because they hardly follow any rule.
* With around 40,000 vehicles (four wheelers and two wheelers) hitting the roads of Jammu ever year the situation is going to be grim and pathetic.
The increase in traffic does not commensurate with corresponding increase in infrastructural development/expansion (Roads, Bridges, Flyovers, Parking, Foot paths etc), such as to absorb this enormous increase. Under such a scenario what can the new IGP traffic do? He cannot change the mindset of the vehicle drivers overnight nor can he provide additional roads or bridges etc. Since he has to manage with what is available to him, the only option available to him is to be strict and perhaps ruthless in handling traffic violators and yet he cannot course correct the damage that has been done over the years. This situation is compatible with a spring under pressure. If, as and when the pressure is released the spring will bounce back with a greater force. It is imperative therefore, to keep the pressure on for a longer time, which may help in the change of attitude, being the only solution to the problem, at present, besides a perfect policy and perspective planning by the government for the development of roads and traffic of Jammu. However, a pertinent question which comes to mind , is also to ask the predecessors of the present IGP traffic, as to what did they do during their tenure in the traffic department.
(The author is former Fellow of the United Nations University)
Traffic and Roads of Jammu
Dr. S. Sapru