Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jammu stuck in traffic snarls

The traffic situation in the City of Temples continues to worsen day by day. Despite every effort by the Traffic Department to stremline it, there seems no respite from frequent traffic snarls, road skirmishes to the Jammuites.With the High Court tightening its noose over the local authorities for regulation and control of traffic in the wake of irksome traffic jams and increasing rate of road accidents the local administration is all geared up to take corrective measures. 

The Supreme Court has clearly stated that proper management and control of traffic is a matter of public safety and is a fundamental right for the purpose of Article 21 of the Constitution. The state High Court had issued directives to the State Government and local authorities earlier in 2006 for traffic management and pollution control in Jammu city.So many interwoven factors have contributed to the increasing chaos over the years.

Governments pursued neo-liberal reforms that not only increased the buying capacity of the middle class but also expended the markets to splurge. Automobiles being the most desirable commodity and a sign of prosperity among the middle class have seen a constant surge.
Jammu adds more than 20,000 new vehicle on its roads every year. The demand is even more and varied. Easy loans, cheaper models, dirty money have made it easier without giving a second thought."Dil Mangey More, This is my life" are the imbedded slogans of modern life.
Jammu city is a curious mix of old, new and the not so new. The old is thickly populated and alleys are narrow. Encroachment of public places, roads, side walks is very common. Inadequate parking adds to the chaos. Urban development has not kept pace with the surging automobiles.

Legal hassles like land acquisition have stalled the proposed construction of new flyovers, over bridges, links, parkings.Town planning and infrastructure for present and the future would be a key challenge for the governments keeping economic realities in mind. General public holds mini buses responsible for frequent jams and commuters are irritated with the drivers. "There are no fixed stops so our drivers have to board and alight passengers wherever they are asked to," says Jatinder Khajuria Provincial General Secretary, Minibus Worker Union. What used to be our stops are now a free parking, he adds. . Corruption in the motor vehicle department and the traffic police is an open secret. A mini bus owner pays Rs.100 a month as entry on every traffic point depending upon their number on a given route. "If we all pay collectively on a route, we also get a rebate from them. Two or three of us can ply for free in rotation, says Roshan Singh a minibus driver. . It relaxes them to play audio, overload passengers and other things like fitness of the vehicle. Danesh Rana, the D.I.G of police (Traffic), however, said corruption of this kind is collusive and both sides are equally culpable for this fix. "We have taken the most stringent action possible against the corrupt cops recently and won't spare any if such incident is brought to over notice by anybody. Keep your documents fit, obey rules and report us if anybody demands a bribe," he asserted.

Traffic police lacks modernization when it comes to checking violations. Alcosensors (Breath Analyzers), speed radars, lux meters digital still cameras, basic software for identifying habitual offenders are still nowhere in the proposed improvement. Traffic records have been computerized recently yet. Rate of issuing challans is very low as compared to wholesale violations. Intercepting eluding offenders is risky for both. Its like playing "Cops and robbers" in the absence of technology. A constable in the traffic police works for upto 14 hours on most days without an overtime for addition hours. The condition of traffic booths is pathetic.

"It's not possible to catch and punish every violator mostly who are young in the absence of stringent motor vehicle laws. They need to be amended so that the quantum of fines has a deterring effect," explained Rana. He assured that the police are going to install a GPS device in every registered motor vehicle to track its position with the help of satellite. Installation of traffic signals and signs has been entrusted to the JMC and hopefully it would be complete by the end of March, he added. "The Motor Vehicle Department has blocked the issuance of new permits to avoid congestion. Permits are issued only to favoured persons and there is a wide discrepancy between the fares and the increased cost of living" says a source in the Motor Vehicle Department Given the number of increasing automobiles the Motor Vehicle Department of the state works with less than 200 employees (Officers included) and generates a revenue of approximately 70 Crores a year. Ironically it has to live on the modernization doles from the Centre for basics like computerization.

Lack of administrative reforms and Transfer Raj is a serious impediment in the smooth functioning of authorities. Officers in the traffic police and the RTO admit the serious lack of coordination. Section 213 of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 gives ample power to Motor Vehicle officers to carry out functions of the traffic police and are therefore answerable to a single head. Earlier in most of the states there was a fundamental budgetary bias: transport was treated as a non-planned expenditure head or implicitly an expenditure that did not result in any tangible benefits for the state.

It becomes imperative for State Governments to formulate an effective transport policy keeping in mind the realities of the last few decades. Cosmetics do not work long. A perfect hormonal balance is must to look graceful, and of course to stay young.

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