Historic Shehr-e-Khaas ‘choking’, lacks designated parking spaces

Historic Shehr-e-Khaas ‘choking’, lacks designated parking spaces
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Authorities have no clue on status of work

SRINAGAR: In yet another example of the “discriminatory approach” of the authorities towards the historic old city Downtown, popularly known as ‘Shehr-e-Khaas’, the summer capital’s largest and most densely populated locality does not have a single designated parking space. Frequent traffic jams and difficulties to residents, commuters and shoppers are the inevitable result.
The area is considered the core point of the city as it is a hub of commercial activities and houses key historical buildings and monuments, as also religious places like Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta, Khanqah-e-Moula in Zaina Kadal, Aali Masjid in Eidgah, the Maharaj Ganj tomb, Pathar Masjid in Nawabazar, the shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA) in Khanyar and the shrine of Makdhoom Sahib (RA) under the foothills of Koh-i-Maran fort.
The area also has a good number of colleges, like Islamia College of Science and Commerce Hawal, Gandhi Memorial College Bab Demb and Women’s College Nawakadal, besides having three main government hospitals, including the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMSH) multi-speciality hospital, the Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) Hospital Rainawari and Government Gousia Hospital at Khanyar.
Although these institutes have their own parking spaces within their premises, none of them have a designated government parking space, forcing visitors to park their vehicles on roadsides, resulting in the choking of the already-congested roads.
According to the locals of Downtown, the area is “being discriminated against” by the authorities because of their “political ideology”, for which, they say, the locality has paid a huge price.
“Downtown has been at the forefront of political happenings and anti-government protests historically, and the same is true with the recent years of street protests. I think that is the main reason that the area has been neglected by the successive governments,” said a businessman based in Downtown.
Mushtaq Ahmad, Joint Secretary, Zaina Kadal Committee, said that the lack of designated parking spaces leads to haphazard roadside parking and due to that congestion their business have “been affected tremendously”.
“The shoppers in Downtown don’t find any space to park their vehicles, they have to park on the road in front of the shops, which many times can lead to altercations with other shopkeepers,” Mushatq said.
“Due to this reason, people do not like to shop here and prefer other places. Otherwise Zaina Kadal was a happening place for commercial activities. Our businesses are at an all-time low,” he said.
Bashir Kenu, President, Downtown Traders Federation, told Kashmir Reader that they have taken the matter up with the authorities concerned repeatedly but to no avail.
“We have had a couple of meetings with the District Commissioner, and he assured us every time that our issues will be sorted out. In the last meeting, he even said that the funds for these works have been released,” Bashir said.
But, he said, there has been no work on the ground yet even as they wait eagerly for their basic issues to be redressed.
Last year, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan had tasked the city administration with finalising 28 new parking stretches as paid parking as the administration was exploring multi-counter measures to deal with traffic jams and congestion during rush hours.
The then Traffic Management advisor to the PDP government, Anuj Malhotra, had said that work on the identification of places to be designated as parking spaces in Downtown near shrines and other historical places had begun, but till date nothing has been done in this regard.
When contacted, Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Syed Abid Rasheed told Kashmir Reader that he is busy with Muharram arrangements and cannot provide the details and assured this reporter he would talk on Monday.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan said that he cannot comment without information regarding this issue.