As the summer capital Srinagar is witnessing huge traffic jams, Rising Kashmir’s correspondent AatifQayoom interviewed SSP Traffic-City Javid Ahmad Koul regarding this. The officer said that lack of better road planning is the main cause of traffic jams. Although as per the SSP the city is now witnessing lesser traffic jams than previous years, however, he also highlighted the absence of proper coordination as a reason for the occasional mess in the city.
City roads are witnessing traffic snarls throughout the day leaving commuters suffer badly. What are the steps taken by the department to address this?
There is no second thought that the city was witnessing massive traffic jams in the past but you might have seen an improvement in the smooth functioning of traffic movement in Srinagar and other parts. But still, these measures are yet insufficient. The Traffic Department is doing all this in given circumstances. There is no decline in contributing factors and rising numbers of vehicles with each passing day.
Is there a mechanism adopted by the department to decongest the choked routes in the city?
Our men remain on the roads till late hours to bar heavy vehicles into the city. One should know that the Traffic Department can’t stop all vehicles as they have permission to reach JehangirChowk. Our job is to regulate traffic movement in the city. Being an epicentre of the city, it is obvious JehangirChowk will have to see traffic congestion. Had not the Rambagh – JehangirChowk flyover grounded there, there would have been less congestion.
Do you think flyovers constructed in the recent past in city areas helped lessen the burden of traffic regulation in the city? And do you think these flyovers were constructed while taking all technicalities into account?
I can’t comment on that. But will surely tell you like Radio Kashmir flyover we are unable to regulate traffic from both sides as there remains a continuous threat of accidents. It’s one side has been shut as a precautionary measure. It would have been better if barricades are placed in these flyovers to avoid eventualities.
There are several points in the city where traffic jams are common. Do you agree?
Yes. This is true. There are around six traffic junctions in the heart of the city. To avoid frequent traffic snarls we have closed a few junctions. Had roads of the city been designed properly, there would have been less inconvenience to commuters.
Parking slots in city areas are a major concern. How do you see it?
New shopping malls are coming up in the city without having parking facilities. It is up to the concerned department to disapprove of them. Before giving permission the concerned officials should get all clearances. Business complexes, private hospitals, educational hubs etc are being built without having parking areas, which contributes to an immense traffic mess in the city.
The VIP movement in city parts also contributes to traffic jams in the city. What is your take?
At the time of VIP movement it is important to close the road and it won’t happen on a daily basis. Whenever such a situation emerges the department issues a route plan to general commuters to avoid inconvenience.
Do you see any improvement in city roads?
There are some minor improvements in some places but that is not matching with the requirement. There are road surface problems that are a big contribution to traffic jams here. The slow movement of traffic is causing traffic jams. In winters we are witnessing more traffic jams when snow is getting accumulated then vehicles are unable to ply on roads and those who are clearing the snow on the roads are throwing it on the roadside which is also causing thick traffic jams. Water-logging on rainy days on roads is also forcing drivers to ply their vehicles below normal speed which is also causing traffic jams.
Is the RTO taking up the issue of total registration with the traffic department as we have the same roads for vehicles to ply?
I can say I have been in the Traffic department for the last 18 months and I have not seen anything being done toward these things. How will transport ply smoothly on city roads, when little attention is given to it. I have told the departments several times and there were meetings and circulars too that were issued by the Traffic department. We have done much but when it comes to formulation of policy and planning we lack here. If I will be given six months authority I assure you that I will undo the traffic congestion in the city.
Do you think the digitalization in the department has brought transparency in things?
Since we started the E-challans it has brought the changes, earlier people were accusing cops of grabbing the challan amount but since digitalization has started people now know the fine amount is directly going to government via their credit cards, now a traffic cop can’t get cash from any violator, that is a satisfying factor, there will some mal-practising any time but it is an individual who might be doing the same but not the department. If an individual is committing wrong the whole department can’t be blamed for that. Digitalization has also eased the workload of traffic cops, as the online system is providing the exact details and violation fine online to them.
The Traffic Department has installed Traffic Signals in the City. Do you think the department has achieved its results?
This is a promising project and we are expecting people to have invested money in it and recently the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) Commissioner has made a control room at Traffic headquarters Srinagar. Signal lights have been installed but till now it has not been taken care of to that level. The Traffic Signals are not in our control. Once these will be handed over to us, then we can ascertain how much results we have achieved in the smooth regulation of traffic movement in the city. Traffic Signals are based on technologies and need a proper arrangement. If there are fewer defunct parameters it will not work properly.
Do you think traffic regulation should be taught in schools and accommodated in the school curriculum?
As far as traffic week is concerned it was organized for a week but from last year the same was organized for a month on the directions of the Ministry of Road surface transport. As this subject is concerned the government has already taken up the same and it has been added in the curriculum and it is available, besides we are not waiting for the traffic week but we are regularly organizing traffic awareness among people on a regular basis.
How many traffic violations have been reported in Srinagar in the current year?
There are countless violations recorded in the ongoing year. An average of 300-350 challans are being lodged each day in the city. However, the graph witnessed a decline due to the pandemic.
The Srinagar dwellers are facing shortage of transport facility services. Why?
JK: There are around 400 public transport vehicles in the city but still there is an overloading problem. The work of the Traffic department is to enforce the traffic laws and fine the violators. A large number of vehicles are running without the required documents and when we seize vehicles they ensure release from courts. I took up these issues with higher authorities and also mentioned that there is a communication gap between the departments.
Do you think suggestions put forth by your department are being heard?
Proposals and suggestions are being put in but there is no progress. We have urged the administration to rehabilitate the hawkers to avoid the traffic jams as they encroach the whole road. When hawkers install their stalls at the roadside, customers also park vehicles on the road and the result is traffic jams. We told the administration many times but there was no response from them. We have controlled traffic jams on our level but there is no cooperation from any other departments.
Srinagar is witnessing more accidents as compared to other areas. What is the reason?
As compared to the previous year the number of accidents is very less and it decreases with every passing year. Srinagar has huge transport as compared to other districts and a maximum number of accidents are taking place due to negligence of drivers and bad road connectivity. Road designing is the major problem for accidents. Earlier we were saying the behaviour of commuters is the cause; which, however, was only one of the factors. Better road connectivity should be in place. There is a need to open professional driving institutes to teach people how to drive a vehicle safely. A further proper licensing system should be put in place.
What is your message to parents who are giving vehicles to their children?
Life is precious and it should be taken care of. Parents love their children fanatically but that doesn’t mean you will allow them to die on roads. Parents are giving two-wheelers and other vehicles to their minors. Young people are usually full of passion, they don’t understand the repercussions of their actions. If parents want to see their kids drive vehicles, first train them from any reputed institute and then allow them to come on roads.