At a time when the Srinagar city is crumbling under the weight of its vehicular traffic, sparking outrage among commuters, we caught up with Maqsood-Ul-Zaman, the city’s senior superintendent of traffic police, for a candid conversation on what it takes to deal with the ‘madness’ on roads.
- KS) Thank you so much for taking out time. Please introduce yourself to our readers?
- MZ) I am a citizen of this city like anyone over here and have been brought up and groomed to be a disciplined and responsible member of this society. I am ready to serve people in any capacity I am deemed to be fit for.
- KS) Traffic management in Srinagar has always been a challenge. How do you take it as head of the city’s traffic police?
- MZ) Traffic management, if looked on a broader spectrum as SSP Traffic (City), I see a limited role confined to regulation and enforcement but, unfortunately, due to pathetic failures of previously devised Master Plans since 1971, things have come to a pass where traffic regulation has become a herculean task for the traffic cops.
Ribbon Development Act enacted and enforced since 1950 defining ‘No Construction Zones’ has been tattered blatantly to the extent that huge buildings, both commercial and residential, have come up along roads over the decades violating all norms related to it and now the government is compelled to compensate! And subsequent delays add untold woes of common man to commute even shorter distances.
- KS) Every alternate day, we read through the news about the traffic mess and snarls in the city. What is the root cause for this mess?
- MZ) Root cause is the dis-proportionality between exponential growth of vehicles and road infrastructure to cater to that growth. Srinagar city has extended over the years either to the North or South-West. Traffic influx from two main road arteries from Panthachowk and Parimpora with least diversion routes and reduced in-road absorption capacity develops lot of back flow of traffic which effects mobility, sometimes to a standstill scenario as obvious. But all efforts are made to set the things right with the co-operation of commuters who form the backbone of traffic management in present circumstances.
- KS) Since past few days, there is a considerable improvement in traffic movement. Is it going to get better in future?
- MZ) Of course, and I will tell you it is all because of the co-operation of people, especially commuters. We are hopeful that people will co-operate in future as well. Key to our success is the peoples’ co-operation and perseverance that always steer us of such apprehensions of traffic mess.
- KS) What is the main cause for traffic violations in Srinagar?
- MZ) Squeezed roads, encroachments and non-segregation of public transport coupled with burgeoning growth of vehicles over the years. To be precise, disproportionality between huge traffic volume and inadequate traffic infrastructure is the main cause.
- KS) You are curbing the violations but don’t you think that there is a need to educate people about rules? Has your department initiated any program to educate common people?
- MZ) Truly speaking, despite record heavy challans in the last 15 months, traffic violators still go unabated and definitely there is a subsequent round-the-year simultaneous need to initiate mega traffic awareness programs not confined to yearly Safety Week.
On this perspective, we are trying to rope in commercial houses for their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to sponsor Traffic Safety awareness programs in schools and colleges, at bus terminals, at automobile outlets, traffic junctions, religious congregations etc. Just a few days back, we started Road Safety Clubs to disseminate Road Safety education amongst road users by engaging boys from a school through an NGO which bear desired results. In the past too, traffic police organised two-wheeler rallies and recently a sloganeering competition was organised with prizes, both in cash and kind, for college and school competitors.
Unfortunately due to pre-occupations, keeping in view the opening of Darbar, we could not announce the final result of the competition which we are likely to announce within few days. This would continue in future as well, keeping in view the importance and need of traffic education awareness.
- KS) Authorities recently ordered installation of meters in auto-rickshaws and late night transport. But the order still seems a distant dream. Why?
- MZ) Traffic police has come down heavily on auto-rickshaws for non- compliance to the orders issued for installation of fare meters and till date we have challaned over 1100 auto-rickshaws for violations in the last two months.
With regard to the late night transport in the city, the matter has been taken up with RTO Kashmir to provide succour to the common people who are reportedly being fleeced by auto-rickshaws during late night hours. I would not go without saying that a few days back, I had to arrange a police bus to ferry helpless passengers at Lal Chowk in two shifts to Hazratbal and Soura.
- KS) Don’t you think the state government’s unplanned road infrastructure is one of the main reason for traffic mess in the city?
- MZ) On ground, we have little to see as far as the planned road infrastructure is concerned. The government is very much concerned about the infrastructure deficiencies. Traffic is being given a top priority to redress the inconvenience faced by the public presently.
- KS) Stunt biking is one of the major cause for accidents in present days. What is your department doing to curb it?
- MZ) As far as enforcement is concerned, traffic police has apprehended and challaned about 30,000 two wheelers over the last 13 months and is committed to curb traffic violations committed by bikers including stunt biking for which special Nakas under special drives are put in place from time to time.
- KS) What will be your message to public?
- MZ) My message is loud and clear. I myself remain on roads for most of the time pleading co-operation of people to obey traffic signs all the time which will help us to streamline traffic in Srinagar.