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.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Giant Parking Lot

Mix habitual public indiscipline with chaotic driving in a city with no traffic lights, and you get?

Srinagar - The city of Traffic Jams

Eqbal Ahmad

Traffic Jams, nowadays, have come to hit the masses in a real bad way with each route and every Crossing getting chocked almost every time during the day. The concerned department too seems in absolutely no control of the situation as every road juncture and highway that connects the city with the villages seems over burdened particularly during the morning and evening hours. Given the stretch of the roads and the ancestral width which has not been altered in a big deal, it is bound to happen and the masses must know that worse is yet to come as each year the number of vehicles gets multiplied.

Most of the city routes are lay spread in the same manner as before 1947. Take for instance Pantha chowk- Sonwar – Lal chowk road link which covers the road stretches of Athwajan , Pandrethan , and Batawara areas, people face prolonged traffic jams and are tired of it now. They also claim that the road juncture has never been upgraded in terms of its width since Maharaja Period while as traffic has increase manifold since than.

In such circumstances, traffic jams on this route are a regular feature and one can not put the entire blame on traffic police or any other transport authority for the traffic mess as the higher authorities have, people say, forgotten this crucial and important link and left it untouched and on the graph of Maharaja’s .

Other city areas including Rambagh, Natipura, Sarai-Bala, Dal Gate etc too face the same situation while as people at most of the immediate outskirts of the city have a usual date with traffic Jams each morning and evening with the traffic influx and exit from city fills the roads and exposes the half hearted attempts of the government claim to better traveling conditions.

No doubt the western and northern areas of the city have, to a certain account, seen wider road expansions but to ones surprise the eastern and southern roads of the city have altogether been neglected. Among these road links, the Pantha Chowk- Sonwar road has been left on the mercy of almighty even if the link happens to be the face of the city as vehicular traffic entering this valley has to come through this link.

Despite the tall claims of the state government to provide better road communication facilities to the urban areas, the eastern roads of the B2 Srinagar city embarrass every civilized citizen.

The ugliest picture of Srinager roads can be gauged from its eastern gateway called Pantha Chowk Bypass up to Sonwar winch hardy measures 5kms long strench. It is all along this track, where heaps of cow dung, over flowing drains, dirt, dust, dark roads, regular traffic jams and tired passengers are the only sights that welcome the outside visitors reaching here from other parts of the world. Every civilized citizen should feel ashamed to see the chaos of road communication network at this site.

Observers feel that Shifting of bus stand to Pantha Chowk was a good decision to overcome the traffic pressures on the city. But passengers wait for hours for mini-buses to reach Lal Chowk as the link, though over trafficked, does not provide adequate transport facilities to commuters. The Mini-Buses that ply on the road are usually over crowded bashing the hopes of hundreds of commuters who wait endlessly. The trouble is with the people who can not afford to board a Sumo and need Mini-Buses to reach the city centre.

As a mater of fact Sumo service, cabs and other mini buses arriving from Distant destinations have no restriction in entering the city. The restriction is only for the heavy vehicular traffic, may it be a tourist bus. These buses de board their passengers at Pantha Chowk Bus stand. Ironically there is no trans port available for Dargha, Soura, Moghal Gardens and other tourist destinations from this Southern Bus stand. The more serious problem which the travelers have to face here is of frequent traffic jams which occur due to poorly maintained highway from Pantha chowk to Sonwar and also mismanagement of traffic by the traffic police. The stretch from Panthachowk to Sonwar is very narrow which in any way is not sufficient for this single lane highway. The locals allege that since this road has been built during post 1947 and exists in the same form as it was sixty years back, the government needs to take immediate steps for the convenience of the masses

Although from Panthachowk to Sonwar it is a minor distance of 5kms but unfortunately it remains the most neglected stretch of the highway where no works have been under taken since decades. The residents of Athwajan and Pandrathan allege that the authorities have deliberately neglected their respective areas to satiate political revenges. They allege that it is not only the highway which gives a shabby look but their lanes and bylines are ever worst. They are afraid of road accidents which often happen in their respective areas. These people also say that they have been compromising since decades but are worried about the tourists and other passengers who are often stuck in regular traffic jams on this dark highway.

In terms of security, Panthachowk –Sonwar- Dalgate road link is considered the most secure passage to Lalchowk and Mughal Gadens. It is because of this that tourists prefer only this link to enter the city. They hardly opt for Nowgam Byepass the alternative, though longer link to enter city, for security reasons. “They thus prefer to wait at Panthachowk rather than to choosing to ply via Nowgam” said IrshadAhmad a taxi driver.

It is pertinent to mention that authorities have been watching this mess since years together and to their dismay no steps have been taken to widen the road stretch from Pantha Chowk to Sonwar. Though the government has taken up widening of many key roads, ironically this has not been done at Pantha chowk where the exercise should have been undertaken decades back. Full face lifting and decorating this gateway is a very distant dream which can not be even considered at this stage. Proper widening of Pantha Chowk to Sonwar road, construction of paths, building of proper drainages, shifting of road side sculptor work shops, providing lighting arrangements, face lifting of Pantha Chowk bus stand and providing better transport to Lal Chowk bound passengers are few such basic and grave issues which need to be addressed at this juncture.

It does not concern the locals alone as the tourists reaching here too face the same problem with the same intensity. A proper transport facility should also be put in place here so that the tourists could reach the various tourist spots within the city with ease.

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