There are laws and there other laws. It is often the case in Kashmir that the government of the day chooses which laws to enforce when and which ones to ignore; depending upon its immediate objectives at a given time. For example, laws that should ensure delivery of justice – the human rights law, or laws pertaining to prevention of corruption – in a place like Kashmir are often in their (non) implementation an unyielding process. Once in a while, however, we see very strict implementation of traffic law and rules, as has been happening in Srinagar during the last couple of months.
There is no denying that most drivers, both of public transport vehicles and private cars, present scenes of behavior more as violators of traffic rules and law than followers of even some basic decency on the road. The resultant chaos on the roads has become a representation of common public behavior in our cities and towns, more so in the capital city of Srinagar. It has also become a measure of how much we respect each other as citizens. What greatly adds to this chaos on the roads is the apathy of the authorities who care little about the public while road widening work, construction of drainage systems or other developmental projects like flyovers are being undertaken. In any place when road development projects are initiated utmost care is taken for making sure the commuters or drivers face as little hassle as possible while the work is going on. The building of Metro rail network in Delhi is a great example of how developmental work is planned ensuring smooth movement of traffic and minimum inconvenience to the common people.
In Kashmir, it appears the people are rarely, if at all, a consideration while such ‘development work’ takes place. And then, the traffic department decides to enforce rules and frequent checking of documents each driver must possess. Such is the randomness of this exercise that you can be stopped several times in a day and asked to show the documents. Sometimes, even after all the required documents are in place, not wearing a seatbelt while being able to drive at just about a kilometer an hour becomes a reason to be paying a fine! If this is the kind of aggressive checking the traffic authorities must undertake they should ensure some way of making sure that drivers are not asked to show papers multiple times every day or every month. And, more than that, ensure their end of the responsibility is also simultaneously delivered. Enforcing rules and delivering on public rights must go hand-in-hand.