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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crawling City

Traffic is a nightmare in Srinagar

Choked City

In a classic case of bad civic maintenance causing distress to thousands of commuters, travelling on Srinagar roads has become longer and grueling. The daily traffic mess has been worsening with each passing day. The main city chowks remain jammed all through the day making travelling difficult evening for pedestrians. The distance which normally could be covered in minutes takes hours to travel over.

The huge traffic jams at Panta Chwok, Hydrepora, Ram Bagh, Exhibition Chowk, Batamaloo, Qamarwari, Budshah Chowk and Dalgate has reached unparalleled proportions. Panta Chowk is a classic case. It chokes the city from south and east ends completely. The traffic congestion at Qamarwari clogs the city from the west end. The left-over (north end) gets blocked with huge jams at Soura and city interiors like Khanyar and Rainawari. Huge traffic snarls are reported from other parts of the city as well. There is a traffic bottleneck everyday and everywhere in the city that causes slow down in movement of the vehicles. The slowing down of the movement ultimately ends at adding to the mess on the roads.

It should not be deemed with surprise if a commuter complains of wasting hours on city roads before reaching his or her place of work. There are instances when a commuter had to wait for two to three to get cleared of the traffic jam at Panta Chowk. The scene at other places in the city is no different. On occasions, it takes about an hour for a commuter to reach Lal Chowk from Hyderpora or Rawalpora. The mess right from Ram Bagh to exhibition chowk is so grueling and time consuming that many a commuters, who have their work places in and around Lal Chowk, have made it a habit to leave their homes in early morning hours. The mess on prestigious Boulevard Road, which is the face of Kashmir tourism, is even more agonizing. The evening time, when there is large presence of tourists in the area, is more messy.

The installation of traffic signals has not helped to the level one had expected in regulation of traffic at Exhibition ground. The commuters could not be absolved completely for the mess. The moment the light turns red, cars zip past in a flash. The zebra-crossing is blocked by cars, forcing pedestrians to make their way through the vehicles. Shameless drivers on the wrong side, nosing through illegal cuts, taking U-turns before roundabouts, driving with mobiles - all are direct causes of the mess on the roads. What makes things murkier is the indifference of the police supposed to manage the traffic. One can see policemen busy with gossip or talking to individual pedestrians and drivers on the fringes little caring about traffic madness around.

Undoubtedly, much needs to be done for regulation of traffic in the city to make life easy for the people. The development of road infrastructure is the primary need but it cannot be done overnight. It would take time. But the government little appears to be conscious of this primary requirement. It has no idea of how the mess on the roads could e cleared. The widening of road at Panta Chowk has been felt over for a considerable time but it exists nowhere on the government’s list of priorities. Any responsible and caring government would make the road widening at Panta Chowk and construction of by-pass as its primary task. But the way our government functions its priorities are more personal and political.

There had been a talk for construction of a flyover from exhibition ground to Ram Bagh for several years now. Some movement in this direction seemed some time back when some shops were removed near exhibition chow. But nothing beyond that has happened. The present mess on the city roads is a strong reminder to the government to build road infrastructure on priority bases. Till then people should not be left to suffer. There is a strong need for regulation of traffic to minimize the peoples’ problems. The strength of traffic police should be increased in proportion with the increase in rush on roads. The policemen have to become more responsible. There are large scale complaints that policemen allow illegal parking of vehicle against payoffs. They have equally to be harsher with the people who break traffic laws and believe that rules are not for them.

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