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, April 22, 2012

Srinagar Enters the 20th Century

So what if it is only a century behind? A bigger question is will it really happen? Lead story followed by an editorial in the Rising Kashmir 

Srinagar to Get 4 Traffic Signals by First Week of May

Rising Kashmir News

 Srinagar: The summer capital is all set to get modern traffic signals as decks for the much needed service have been cleared by the State Level Contract Committee. Talking to Rising Kashmir over phone, Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr G N Qasba said, “To overcome frequent traffic snarls in Srinagar city, 32 traffic signals will be installed at all busy junctions by the end of June this year.”

 Dr Qasba, said that on trail basis four traffic signals will be installed at vulnerable places like Tourist Reception Centre, Jahangir Chowk, Sangarmal junction and at Badyari-Chowk in the first week of May. He said by the end of June, 2012, SMC will be installing traffic signals in two major areas where jams are frequent. “By the end of June, we will install signals from Airport to Raj Bhawan and from Pantha Chowk to Batamaloo to control frequent traffic jams on these two essential routes,” Dr Qasba said. He said the initiative will be taken in collaboration with City Traffic Police, Power Development Department and Roads and Buildings Department.

According to Dr Qasba, the project would cost around Rs 2 crore to cover all the 32 junctions in these two crucial corridors. “The installation of signals was the demand of time and we are sure people will cooperate and make this experiment successful,” he said. He said after the trial of four traffic signals, the work on remaining signals will also be completed in due time.

Following the public outcry about the uncontrolled traffic jams in city, Deputy Chief Minster who also holds the portfolio of Urban Development Ministry informed the Legislative Assembly in March this year that installation of traffic signals in Srinagar and Jammu was under active consideration of the government and bids in this regard have been finalized by the State Level Contract Committee (SLCC).

Srinagar Traffic

Traffic jams have become common in Srinagar city owing to various contributing factors including exponential increase in the number of vehicles, narrow roads, dearth of traffic policemen manning the streets and violation of traffic rules. Infact, long and frequent traffic jams have become part of our daily life. There are many factors marring the prospects of streamlined traffic system.

Some people blame Regional Transport Office for issuing driving licenses without conducting proper tests increasing the risk of road accidents involving the untrained drivers. In fact the prevalence of fake driving licences is common in the valley. Barring some instances where fake license rackets have been busted, there has been no sustained crackdown on the fake licence holders. India overtook China to top the world in road fatalities in 2006 and has continued to pull steadily ahead, despite a heavily agrarian population, fewer people than China and far fewer cars than many Western countries.

The way road accidents have increased in the state over the years, J&K may also compete for the top spot in the traffic accidents chart of India in coming times. According to statistics, whereas in 1982 a traffic cop had to handle 36 vehicles, he is now overwhelmed with the burden of managing 500 vehicles. This imbalance severely hampers the traffic management efforts. There is huge concentration of vehicles with, as per some official accounts, about 79 per cent registered for a meager 28 per cent population in the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu. Although the government is undertaking road-widening projects, it is unlikely to address the problem of traffic jams any time soon unless the number of vehicles does not continue to swell at current rate. With Darbar Move just round the corner, the summer capital is likely to witness surge in vehicular movement. With tourist arrivals also increasing, one can find long tourist buses and VIP motorcades adding to the traffic chaos.

Besides being a common cause for public inconvenience, traffic jams can often prove life threatening in cases like medical emergencies and fire incidents. It is anybody’s guess as to how worse the traffic scenario will get unless some comprehensive plan is formulated and is implemented on war-footing basis. The successive governments have been sleeping over the issue for long. Though one cannot expect the problem to be addressed overnight, the need for urgent redressal measures cannot be ruled out. It is high time that the incumbent government gives serious thought to the issue.

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