Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Journey of Sufferings and Inconveniences

Nadeem shares what it means to take a bus in the valley

(Mr. Nadeem Jahangir Bhat, 27, was born in Rakhi-Lajurah village in Pulwama district. He received his early education in a local private school and graduated from the Government Degree College in Pulwama. He completed his post graduate degree in the English Language and Literature from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bhat is currently Research Scholar in the Department of English, University of Kashmir, pursuing his M.Phil degree on writings of Salman Rushdie and Post-Colonial Historiography. He also works at the Government Degree College in Pulwama as a Teaching Assistant. In his leisure time, he enjoys reading and writing poetry. He also occasionally writes for the Rising Kashmir newspaper.)

Public Transport System

Buses are the most popular mode of public transport. All sorts of people, men, women, old as well as children use this popular mode of transport. The entire time one can see people waiting for buses and getting up hurriedly. However, there is no joy involved in this journey. In fact, in this part of the world, to travel in a bus is to have the bitterest experiences on earth. The buses are mostly overloaded to the extent that people can hard afford to stand upright which makes the rides more troublesome and uncomfortable. Thus, the journey in a bus becomes a journey of sufferings and inconveniences.

The agony and the inconvenience of a bus journey is a multifarious one. It does not include only a physical suffering, but also psychological, moral and sometimes economical. It is an established fact that the drivers and conductors of buses, especially private ones, indulge regularly in overloading to earn maximum profit on a trip. In the wake of this monitory benefit, the bus operators rotate the timings of buses in such a way that commuters are forced to ride buses even when they are already overloaded. They cannot simply let go the chance off their hands fearing a long time wait for the next bus to come, overloaded the same way. Therefore, commuters irrespective of age, gender and status stuff the bus in unnatural and awkward manner. Inside the bus, apart from a few uncomfortable seats, all have to keep standing and watch helplessly as the conductor goes on packing each new passenger, stuffing the bus to his satisfaction. In spite of all the difficulties, nobody dares to question the driver or conductor fearing their rugged and uncouth behavior. It is a situation where the whole bus of passengers is virtually made hostage by the driver and his assistant. All have to be at the begging mercy of the two. The journey starts reluctantly and proceeds with frequent stops.

Eventually, the journey of a certain time is covered in more than double time with ‘passenger cum hostages’ complaining of strain and back pain at the end of it. All this inconvenience and misery is accompanied by a constant threat to life that gnaws the passengers internally. Due to overloading, the drivers often lose control over their vehicles, increasing chances of accidents and mishaps. In addition to the physical and psychological inconveniences, the passengers have to face much more. Mostly, these stuffed buses are the chosen spots of the pickpockets to thrive. Another issue of concern associated with over loading is a moral one.

Quite often, these overloaded buses become hot spots of eve teasing and other immoral acts. Every now and then, there are rows in busses with passengers accusing one another of jolting and trampling. In this way, journey in a bus become an awesome proposition full of inconvenience, risk and above all disgrace. To this problem of overloading, there are some reasons which all of us know. All types of vehicles have different carrying capacities.

Vehicles ranging from motorcycles and scooters up to trucks and buses are quite often found flouting the norms. The violation of carrying capacity makes such vehicles vulnerable to accidents and very often causes accidents. Buses have a prescribed sitting and standing capacity, but bus operators do not stick to the norms and put the lives of passengers at risk. Again, we have seen dangerously overloaded buses plying on bad roads with police and traffic officials watching like mute spectators. Sometimes, they stop the buses for checking but then something transpires between them and after a bribe of perhaps 50 or 100 rupees, the driver is given a license to play with the lives of passengers.

With each passing day, the scenario is becoming messy. The transport authorities need to take concrete steps to prevent such practice.

Unless and until, a proper seat allotment in buses is not made the common person will have to suffer endlessly. The maximum capacity of the busses must be displayed openly to keep conductors from taking more than the specified number of passengers. At the same time, reserved seats for women and elderly people must be specified. There should be proper checking in order to ensure the implementation of the order. A passenger assistance service should be set up so that when need arises, they can seek help from the authorities.

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