What to speak of this system that suffocates you…?
In modern-day world public transport system can be termed as backbone of essential infrastructure. Particularly, for struggling state like Jammu and Kashmir were most of the population can afford only a working-class living, public transport is a crucial link for sustenance and growth.
Until four decades ago Public transport system in Kashmir was almost negligible and only a skeletal public transport facility mostly run by the government subsidiary ‘Government Transport Undertaking’ (GTU) and few private transporters existed. For the last two decades the public transport in Kashmir has experienced a phenomenal change in quantity and quality of vehicles, but unfortunately the quality of service provided by this overgrown sector is not only poor but can be termed extremely dismal on all accounts. Traveling through existing extensive transport network in the state, particularly in Kashmir is a nightmare.
Srinagar transport network comprising minibuses (very often known as ‘Matador’ or ‘407’ in local parlance); taxi and contract carriage vehicles and other light motor vehicles (LMV) that dominate the transport system of Srinagar, out of these ‘Matador’ minibuses and ‘Sumo’ LMVs comprise more than ninety percent of Srinagar’s public transport. These vehicles need to be analyzed on two accounts; their effectiveness and next their discipline both on road and while handling the commuters. By all means the existing vehicles plying in Srinagar city are of international standard and are worth any high-end transport infrastructure in the region.
But, unfortunately managers and administrators of our transport system have failed miserably. Transport authority and traffic police from administration along with transport fleet owners, transport unions and other private stake holders are unable to improve the efficiency of the system and inculcate a sense of social responsibility within stake holders. Incessantly growing commercial mindset has overtaken the whole transport apparatus and unrestrained corruption within the system has made the situation worst. The erstwhile GTU now SRTC (State Road Transport Corporation) that used to run its fleet of vehicles on specific routes is almost defunct now. Most of the mini-bus operators run their vehicles only at peak hours and during rest of the day they move at snail’s pace creating hurdles in overall traffic movement. A large amount of fuel by these vehicles gets burnt uselessly while luring the commuters to crammed vehicles adding huge quantity of pollutants to already grimy atmosphere. The improved machines which otherwise could provide most efficient public transport are wasted just to satisfy the unrealistic urge of greed and roguery. Reckless driving and halts at wrong place in hunt for passengers is a routine and on many occasions prove fatal both for man and machine.
Discipline on road and behavior with commuters’ are the most prominent irritants within our public transport system. Most of the minibuses on almost every route very often violate traffic rules and norms making the traffic movement complicated. At major intersections in the city at Jahangir chowk , Batmaloo, Dalgate, Khanyaar and at entry points at Patha Chowk, Nowgam, Zainkoot crossing, Hazratbal , Qamarwari chowk and other vital junctions these mini buses and other public transport vehicles make a beeline for potential passengers, choking the entire road and leaving no space or lane for rest of the traffic. This brazen violation goes under the nose of traffic managers and other law enforcing agencies. Overloading, untimely departures and unnecessary delays make our public transport the most disorderly system. Jam-packed minibuses having no regard for aged, women and disabled persons, driven by reckless drivers and conducted by inexperienced (at occasions minors) present a pathetic and inhuman situation. Behavior of drivers and conductors with commuters, pedestrians and others on the road in most cases is rude and aggressive, exposing the degraded level of professional standard.
Here existing public transport system can be modern in many respects but its management and monitoring lies either with raw hands and unprofessional people or it is victim of materialistic greed and corruption. Srinagar city being an important tourist destination with a large population requires an efficient transport system. Any flaw that too managerial does not auger well for its overall development and societal health. Instead of patronizing rogue transport system and its rude managers and conductors’ administration should put in extra efforts to rein this sector and provide a soothing public transport system out of the existing infrastructure. Instead of encouraging unprofessional raw-hands government should encourage professionalism after providing requisite training. And last but not the least, administration should ensure proper and strict law enforcement on road as well as within the transport system.