Every year when new tourist season begins in Kashmir and hordes of tourists flock for a glimpse of our beautiful vale, we welcome them in our own style. The first thing they notice after reaching Kashmir is our inefficiency to manage traffic. They are greeted by chaotic roads and congested streets. While the number of tourists visiting Kashmir in a calendar year is often used as parameter for many things, government hardly cares about their comfortable stay. It has become a routine now that every tourist season begins with traffic jams. It takes hours to complete a few kilometres journey in Kashmir. The rule to drive in Kashmir is that there is no rule at all. One can see helpless traffic officials looking at vehicles jumping traffic lights. But all they care about is how much money they have made while being on the duty. A ten kilometres journey in Kashmir can turn a monk into monster. One fails to understand why government is acting like a mute spectator while a common man suffers. Isn’t there any way out of this mess? Recently, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa, which is equally notorious for traffic mess, installed robots with built-in cameras to regulate traffic. Best part is that, unlike their human counterparts, these robots cannot collect bribes.
Kerala, which surpasses Kashmir by a large margin in number of tourist visiting annually, has equally narrow roads laid mostly during Portuguese rule. But the major difference is management of traffic which is remarkable. There are no traffic jams to be seen anywhere. One has to undergo a special training before applying for a commercial driving license. One cannot just buy a cab and start ferrying tourists. State’s tourism department is particular about how locals are treating tourists. Just one complaint and the driver is banned for life from driving a tourist vehicle. But in Kashmir all you need is money to start a cab service. Nobody is going to ask you any questions if you know how and where to twist the law. Around 70 per cent tourist cabs in Kashmir are running illegally without any permit of permission. If we need to manage traffic properly and present ourselves as a civilized lot we need to implement laws strictly.
There should not be any shortcuts for offenders. In last two years around 50 thousand vehicles were registered in Srinagar alone. With new vehicles increasing at such a fast pace it is high time that we tackle the traffic mess or else it will be difficult to commute at all. And with the kind of driving skills and attitude displayed on roads we are only adding to the woes. It takes both hands to clap. Unless we don’t follow the law we cannot blame authorities for their carelessness. Till then let’s wait for miracle or robots.