(The bits and pieces of the incomplete flyover of Srinagar in fact reflect the true state of Kashmir’s development in almost all sectors!)
The most appropriate word to describe the state of developmental activities in Kashmir in any field is “adhocism”! Everything is done on the whims and fancies of the rulers always given to flattery from one and all! The worst fault is of our engineers who instead of giving the correct technical advice and standing by it regardless of the consequences try to please the political masters by catering to their whims and fancies. There are at the moment two fly overs under construction. The longest one has been there under construction for last four years or so. These fly overs which ostensibly are being constructed to ease the traffic congestion are in reality for easing the movement of VIP’s at congestion points and allowing them a quick travel to Airport and Secretariat. The Jahangir Chowk flyover was constructed only for easing the travel of VIP’s to the Secretariat. In fact, it created more congestion for the normal traffic going under it! There is an interesting side light of the project. It was conceived and presented to Dr. Farooq Abdullah when he was the Chief Minister. The authors of the project had a very ingenious plan for destroying the beauty of Srinagar. The engineers had suggested an overhead road right from Badshah Bridge to RustomGadi Bridge all over the Maulana Azad Road. Fortunately, the then Chief Town Planner convinced the Chief Minister that it will destroy the most important green avenue of Srinagar City. Luckily he was convinced and scrapped the project!
There are umpteen projects which were started either on the whims and fancies of the rulers or to accommodate some vested interests but were then abandoned half way after the sudden departure of the particular set of the rulers! The skewed bridge is a living example! If one is really interested in easing the traffic congestion, the first thing is to ensure enforcement of traffic rules on the existing roads. Srinagar is a city of crazy drivers who observe no traffic rules. Licenses for driving are issued without any driving tests. Sometimes these can be delivered at your home for a price!
Instead of the fly over, one could have built two parallel wide roads for one way traffic with only one way side entries. A parallel bridge to existing one at Ram Bagh could have ensured smooth traffic both ways. In fact, some citizens including some local engineers approached every one for reviewing the construction of this monstrous and obnoxious long flyover which does not at all gel with the surroundings. They even approached the Asian Development Bank which was supposed to be funding the project. Even a Public Interest Litigation too was filed in the High Court but to no avail. The engineers and the rulers had their way as the project involved huge pay offs! Interestingly, the projects which are really meant to be in general public interest get slowed down for unknown reasons. Take for instance the measures for prevention of future floods like the dredging of the River Jhelum and the flood Spill over Channel. These are moving at a snail’s pace because these may not involve easy pay offs! Recently, there has been a news about the mismanagement of the dredging project by a Kolkata based firm which even after a scandal on the Jhelum River is supposed to be engaged again for dredging of the Wular Lake!
The most recent and a glaring example of ad hocism is the shifting of the Batamaloo Bus Stand. No doubt this Bus Stand which has been there for ages is a huge traffic bottle neck but the shifting has to be in a proper way and not just on ad hoc basis. Firstly, the entire traffic bottle neck could have been avoided if the stand had proper strictly monitored one way entry and exit roads manned by traffic police not ready for compromise at any cost. Moreover, the huge bus fleet of various categories is supposed to be shifted to a stand which can hardly accommodate 286 buses! Again that new stand will create another nightmarish congestion point! The idea is not to shift congestion from one part of the city to another part but to ease the flow of traffic everywhere. The most urgent need is to engage an agency which can give a proper traffic plan and then ensure implementation and enforcement of the plan. Flyovers, over bridges, under bridges will not solve the problem unless there is a will to enforce the law regardless of any considerations. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles have the first right of way than siren blaring VIP’s violating all laws! Incidentally, we have so much Armed Police; a part of it could be easily spared for enforcing traffic regulations at all the crossings and congestion points..
In fact, if one were to write about adhocism in development and even all other state activities, it would take a book. The Srinagar Master Plan especially the land use, building bye laws and so on are all in a mess. These are observed more in violation than in enforcement! These are huge money spinning treasuries for some people involved in the observance and enforcement of various laws! They say honesty and water always flow from top to down below. Unfortunately, both the political will and honesty have always been missing in Kashmir. Consequently, we have to continue to suffer whether by flyovers to nowhere or by sudden floods or unending traffic jams!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir