The Mess Called Public Transport in Kashmir

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By Sheikh Gulzar Ahmed

Commuting and traveling by public transport in Kashmir is a nightmarish experience. Consider the example of the 407 commonly known as “Tata Gaadi” which packs passengers like sand and pebbles and moves at a snail’s pace taking, at least an hour for a ten minute journey. Similarly, Sumos which ferry passengers from major towns and district head quarters to Srinagar with the capacity of eight seats pack twelve passengers. But, alas, no appears to care here. If my assertion(s) are in doubt, let Mehbooba Mufti travel and use public transport and experience the hip breaking, body twisting and nerve racking journey. In Srinagar city, passenger vehicles are so jam packed that even breathing. A journey of ten minutes takes one hour, or sometimes, even more.
The mess in our urban and rural transport systems can actually be traced to bad policy. An eloquent example of this is the decision of the administration’s shifting of the historical transport yard from Batamaloo to Parimpora. This has led to all sorts of problems for passengers and commuters.
The proverbial salt is rubbed on the injury by the absence of the administration. The transport department is and remains a mere spectator. Probably, it might not be a stretch to assert that those running traffic and the transport department are hand in glove.
Similar problems beset the passenger fares. It may recalled that a decade ago Parvaiz Dewan, the then Divisional commissioner had out rightly denied any hike to passenger fare under the conditions that they won’t overload the passengers. The transporters had surrendered to the thrashing and bashing of the Div com at that time. It was first time that there was no hike in fare owing to the unruly attitude of the transporters.
Under the circumstances a look out notice is required to bring these issues to the notice of the administration. By way of a conclusion, I would like to offer some reform measures that, if implemented , can ameliorate the transport issues in Kashmir.
First, special squads need to be framed to check the overload and implementation of the time table for mini buses and sumo service(s) in operation.
Second, people should be made aware people about the seating capacity in mini buses and sumos.
Third, concerned police beats should meet the management of the stands to educate them about the rules pertaining to the passengers and carriers.
Third, an overload safety week be observed for the awareness of the common masses.
Fourth, punitive action should be initiated against drivers encouraging overload and offering seats on their left sides.
Last but not the least, action under rules against passengers should be taken , who climb on the ladders and sit on the top of a vehicle during travel time.

—The author is a social activist. He can be reached at: