By Kuchay Yousuf
On 10th of July 2019, a picture of a cab (sumo) going from Sathra to Galinag in Poonch Mandi went viral with overloading of about 20 people on the roof top with men hanging from its back. There was every possibility of any untoward to happen and the scene was looking very drastic and dreadful beyond one’s imagination. It shows how the lives of people are taken for a ride. The viral pictures compelled the police to take action as a result an FIR under number 44/2019 under section 336 RPC was lodged and the driver was arrested.
It is not the first instance that a vehicle with a carrying capacity of 10 passengers is seen carrying about 32 passengers on board and that too on hilly and rough terrains of Pir Panchal range i,e, Kishtwar, Doda, Pooch, Ramban etc. Recently about 44 passengers were killed and the same number injured when a bus fell in a deep gorge in Kishtwar. About 19 college girls died when their vehicle skidded off the road and fell into about 300 meters deep gorge in Kishtwar. Such accidents do happen, day-in and day-out taking lives of hundreds of people for none of their faults.
Now the question arises as to why the vehicles are allowed to ply with overloads on the rough and hilly roads? Is it any adventure that people voluntarily take part to cost their lives? Is it any game that drivers and vehicle owners take the risk to invest their properties and lives to get eliminated for no gains? Is it any conspiracy between the stake holders who so ever at the cost of lives of people for their illegal earnings? Is there no one to have a proper look on the system? Has the chapter of public safety been deleted from the government gazettes? All the people see, think, talk and forget! Now it looks as usual to a layman as a daily routine.
The traffic system in the state of J&K is worst hit and there seems no regulations in place for the traffic movement. The transporters ply their vehicles on their own will. Whenever and wherever they desire. Especially all Mondays and Saturdays are very crucial for the common man to get transport to reach his destination in time, safely. The people desirous to travel nearby places of short distances feel frustrated to get a chance to travel. The shifting of public transport from old towns and villages to bypass four-way road has added to the miseries of the people living there due to diversion. The roads are not so wide but however, the process of widening is on at several places but on snails’ pace and perhaps following the traditional methods of planning i,e, first making a blacktop road then digging again for laying of water pipes followed by erecting electric poles and telephone trunk lines as has been practised for a long time leaving the road again in apathetical conditions for decades together. However, the people also do not care to divert their drainage waters, rubbish and garbage to float on the open roads and leave no corner for the common road safety.
The road construction agencies do not care for construction of foot paths along the roads especially on the four lane national highway where the pedestrians face a trouble to move along the road safely. There remains every risk of life while walking or crossing of the roads. The more convenient traditional non electricity using cycling has become a wonder of the times as one cannot dare to travel on a cycle a short distance because of having no way for him. Thus this more convenient and beneficial mode of transport has been discouraged while it is getting preference in foreign developed countries where high graded people prefer to travel with.
The government run public transport system has become mere eyewash. There is enough potential for government transport to ply on the long and short distance routes on lowest input which can make ease for the common people to travel frequently at cheap tariffs and at ease. When the larger buses can ply on the roads of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and other metro and non metro cities why can’t in J&K?
The most valuable government transport industry runs in loss in the State where the same has a vibrant potential to lead all the public sector industries. There are much avenues to implement bonus, encouragement and more benefits to the employees on the basis of performance to boost this industry. The State is rich in tourist destination spots and have reachable far flung areas where significant transport can run smoothly. But due to the traditional management the industry is not flourishing well. If the government may provide the sight site seeing tourist transport to the youth on contract basis or on easy loans and introduce waterways for transport to generate employment and facilitate the tourism it can enhance the accessibility and economy of the State.
Need of the hour is that busses should operate in the city and outskirts without getting stuck in the city. Bus stops be provided with facilities of public connivance, drinking water, shelter and seating arrangements. Human resource with dignity with separate sections for ladies and gents with at least two to three seats for physically challenged and senior citizens in public transport as is found in other states of India like Hyderabad, Assam and other places is also needed. The people follow separate queues while boarding on fixed bus stops.
Here in J&K we find overloading of passengers to the hilt and there is no implementation of woman reservation in public transport, although, the same is written on the walls of busses and matadors that seats from 1 to 6 are reserved for ladies but seems a mere joke and eyewash where nobody bothers to leave a seat for ladies and senior citizens. Banning overloaded is no way a remedy but providing sufficient and regular and comfortable transport can be a wise step.
Also the ruthless driving results in dreadful accidents. The condition and documentation of both the drivers and vehicle is to be maintained anyhow. The proper monitoring and training of drivers is the need of the time providing valuable information about the roads safety rules and road safety signals. The uniform of public transport drivers is to be maintained. The bicycle riders are most prune to accidents due to not using helmets and performing stunt shows on busy roads & no care for the overloading and speed which results in deaths often. The facilities of regular, comfortable, easy transport is the need today. The number and arrangement of seats in all vehicles be properly checked to provide a dignified travel to all citizens. The roads be widened enough with construction of pedestrian paths, best road signals and lighting system at dense junctions is a must. Traffic management and monitoring be digitized as per latest standards. Traffic rules be implemented strictly with keen eye on traffic jams to save inconvenience and time of people with check on accidents. More transport be utilised for frequent movement of the people with increasing the day hours from early morning to late evening to facilitate the economic encouragement for both the people and transpoters. Night transport is to be provided to at least connect the district and tehsil headquarters. The overloading of school buses is also to be kept under scanner. The radio taxi transport i,e, auto and taxis moving on battery charger has a vibrant potential to provide best, frequently available, environment friendly and short distance transport in towns and cities with a charm and best opportunity of employment.
The people are the asset of the state have an important part to play ie, to abide by the rules and regulations of the traffic movement. The public awareness and cooperation to be encouraged. By owning the government transport and properties can solve the difficult problem. The private transporters will have to leave the ignorance and follow rules waiting for their turn at every point to avoid traffic jamming. Essential services like ambulance, fire service, school buses are to be provided nonstop way to ply without any hassles. Hope the government pays a heed to a few suggestions so as to make the travel of common people smooth and civilized.
(Opinion expressed is author’s own and he can be reached out at: firstname.lastname@example.org)