Missing Intent

After having ‘successfully’ put an end to dog menace, a safer, environment-friendly mode of transport for residents of Srinagar seems to be on the wishlist of Srinagar Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Dr GN Qasba. It was with this enthusiasm and pragmatism that Dr Qasba recently led a rally of around 700 cyclists on the banks of Dal Lake to urge the people to avoid using “pollution causing vehicles.”

“If we revive this tradition, there will be less of pollution, less of traffic jams and the City will stay healthy,” Dr Qasba told reporters. Although there is nothing wrong in caring for the environment but one wonders as to how SMC will plan and implement the policy to provide separate lanes for cyclists, as is the norm in developed countries, in a city where roads remain clogged for most part of the day.

On a busy day, it takes almost nearly an hour to travel a distance of four kilometers from city centre towards the outskirts. Pedestrians are forced to walk on roads as footpaths and pavements are occupied by vendors. But the municipality, it seems, is living with a belief that vehicles cause traffic jams which may be true to some extent but not the whole story.

There are occupiers of different kind who feed on the immorality of our policy makers and are responsible for the traffic mess to a large extent. If Dr Qasba is serious about making the city ‘healthy’ and ‘safe’ for its residents, the first step must be to remove the vendors selling their products on footpaths meant for pedestrians. The roads will get automatically cleared up as pedestrians will take to footpaths. Let no commercial vehicle be allowed to violate the law by making busy junctions as their point of passenger collection. Lack of identified auto stands are also responsible for the traffic mess especially around busy market centres.This together with absence of parking slots for private vehicles puts a lot of stress on roads.

If there is a policy in place for these vendors, since the issue concerns the livelihood of thousands of families, let it be revisited. Let these people be provided space at some appropriate places so that the well-being of their families is taken care of. By acting on these issues, the municipality would be doing a great service to the people at large.

But, like the SMC handled the issue of dogs who had terrorized the city residents last year by declaring that it had reduced their numbers in half by using sterilization technique (which can only prevent further breeding and not reduce the actual numbers), the enthusiasm for popularizing cycling too seems to be driven by romantic notion rather than a serious intention.

As Albert Camus says, ‘By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more’. If SMC is serious to make a change happen, let them turn to basics. It will take a lot of effort and commitment to implement a change in policy which, unfortunately, our policy makers lack to a great extent.


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