Zero for Transportation, Mobility

Sunny Dua
Public transportation system and health sector of any city virtually moves it and when a country wide survey puts you down at the bottom of merit list because of poorly rated services, I believe, more than Government it should worry its citizens. However, situation in Jammu is other way round.
No one is worried rather concerned! Since geographical area of Jammu is merely 112 square km having a population of about six lakh, majority of whom are middle class, upper middle or rich class citizens, such surveys really don’t move them.
In one of the most important feature of physical parameter on which the city survey was done recently Jammu scored a big ‘Zero’ in Transportation and Mobility. Physical parameter of any city was to be evaluated out of a total of 45 marks. Another such important feature of social parameter was health in which we got mere 2.06 out of a total of 25 marks. Such a low rating itself says that Jammu neither has quality emergency services nor good public transport system making the city one of the worst livable cities of India.
These figures for most of the time are countered by those who travel by their own cars, own palatial houses in posh localities, have ease of travelling to other neighboring cities for medical facilities and hardly use our so called public transport system that comprises of rotten minibuses, not so ventilated buses and auto-rickshaws that never issue tickets or have metered fare system for convenience of commuters. To top this all we have well decorated cops who could be seen running after these handful of condemned, illegally passed and overloaded buses to claim accolades.
To this, these people call good city especially when other parameters are of equal ratings. Jammu and Srinagar, the capital cities of the J&K State were recently rated among worst livable cities in India in the Ease of Living Index survey carried out by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. According to the ranking of total 111 cities of India on the Ease of Living Index, Jammu ranked at 95th and Srinagar at 100th place with their respective overall score of 25.71 and 22.71. The quality of life in these cities was rated in a scale of 1 to 100 and based on different parameters.
Speaking honestly, a larger chunk of our population finds living in Jammu quite comfortable just because every facility is available within a range of maximum 10 to 15 kilometers. I have personally met so many central government officers on deputation to this state and families of soldiers who on comparing Jammu or Srinagar to any other city in the country rate these capital cities and one of the best cities for the reason that every facility is at their disposal because of their position and not the facilities available to commoners.
Given the situation, anyone who has to travel from Panjtirthi to Channi Himmat – a distance of merely 10 kilometers needs to change two shabby and crowded buses. Many more routes are worst connected than this. Taxis and auto-rickshaws don’t charge metered fare, supply of milk and milk by-products are not regulated, city houses maximum dairy farms, almost all city nullahs carry refuse to river Tawi in absence of a sewerage system, animals are slaughtered anywhere and there are no abattoirs, most social aspect employment is nowhere to be seen and private industries or big business houses hardly descent in areas of conflict. These are all signs of worst livable cities and we must admit this only if we want to improve upon these features and move upwards to higher scale.
Quality of life in both Jammu and Srinagar besides other cities was studied on four factors including institutional, social, economic and physical. These four factors were further divided into governance under institutional; identity, education, health and security under social; economy and employment under economic and finally waste water and solid waste management, pollution, housing/ inclusiveness, mixed land use, power and water supply, transport, public open spaces under physical factors. Each parameter carried a weightage totaling 100 marks – institutional (25), social (25), physical (45) and economic (5). Based on this, the cities were given overall ranks where Srinagar figured at 100th and Jammu at 95th.
Still worst is that Jammu scored ‘zero’ for Transportation and Mobility which means that kind of roads and rotaries constructed by our engineers failed the litmus test. The public transport system which is manned by a full-fledged transport department lacks even the minimum basis facilities including proper seating, adequate lighting inside vehicles, their fitness levels, mobility, parking places and stoppages, reaches of these vehicles to far off places and most importantly safety features. For Srinagar the issue of concern should be Identity and Culture in which it scored 0.01 which means that we in the Valley are drawing away from our roots and switching over to other social setup that doesn’t sync with rich cultural and heritage values of Kashmir.
A big ‘Zero’ should by now have forced Government to rush to Pune or Chandigarh – that rank amongst first five top livable cities to assess their transport system and imitate the same for convenience of people of Jammu as well as Srinagar. We need to learn from the fact that Delhi that houses one of the best Metro services besides e-Rickshaws that don’t pollute air surfaced at number 65. This means that even the capital city lacks many things and Jammu or Srinagar need to straightway head towards one of the top five cities to learn to climb up the rank by making much needed changes in our livable criteria.
Jammu as well as Srinagar needs to meet challenges posed by Ease of Living framework comprising of four pillars that have been further broken down into 15 categories and 78 indicators. We are heading towards making our capital cities as Smart Cities and unless we don’t get down to the ground level, assess issues of commoners, stop illegal constructions, abide by law of the land or contribute in whatever way we can Jammu will continue to score 3.39 points in Institutional, 9.92 in Social, 1.04 in Economic and 11.36 in Physical pillars while Srinagar 3.54 in Institutional, 8.11 in Social, 1.69 in Economic and 9.37 in Physical aspect as has been announced by Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. The livability for a quite few rich might be satisfactory but we need to raise the level of our cities to meet global and national benchmarks.