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.

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Make It Safe"

The Rising Kashmir laments how careless driving and poor road conditions collide to create a Kashmiri disaster

Traffic Trial

Jammu and Kashmir is facing plethora of traffic problems - from the high accident rate to frequent traffic jams. Hardly a day passes off without a road accident in the state, often resulting in casualties. In Srinagar district alone, 193 people have lost their lives in over 1600 road accidents in the last three and a half years while the number of injured stands at 1500. According to top officials of traffic police department, every year there is 50 per cent increase in vehicular traffic.

The exponential increase in the number of vehicles is also accompanied with the increase in the number of violations like wrong parking. According to traffic police, there are over three lakh vehicles registered in Srinagar city, but during the peak tourist season, the number touches six lakh vehicles every day. Even as the vehicular traffic has increased manifold, the width of our roads remains the same as many decades back. This, among other factors, is making roads unsafe or too congested.

The traffic department has been struggling to regulate the traffic and check violations due to lack of adequate manpower. As per the officials, Traffic Police has a workforce of 250 personnel presently, which roughly puts one man in charge of around 5000 vehicles during the summer season when the tourist rush is at its peak in the valley. To manage such a huge rush of vehicles is a herculean task in itself.

We might still have made up for the dearth of manpower with infrastructure and technology, but unfortunately we are lagging on both fronts. We don’t even have functional traffic signals. Zebra crossings are not well maintained and are painted usually just before the darbar offices move to Srinagar. Most of the roads are full of potholes posing inconvenience to the people and sometimes even leading to accidents. According to a survey carried by Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, drivers are at fault in most of the accident cases. The findings hold true for J&K where the offenders often go scot free. The complaints about some traffic cops taking bribe to let the offenders free cannot be undermined. The traffic department must ensure discipline among its men and act tough against corrupt cops.

According to official figures, 284 accidents have been recorded involving Sumos and mini-busses while two-wheeler riders have been culprits in 236 accidents reported in last three years. The actual number may be even more since many cases of accidents go unreported unless some serious offence is committed. With its ‘Make It Safe’ campaign, Rising Kashmir is exploring the above and many other aspects of the traffic scenario in an effort to build consensus on the need for making the roads safer. Even if we can succeed in generating a meaningful debate about the issue, we will consider our campaign a successful beginning for the noble cause.

No comments: