Transport Dept issues permits, forgets regulation; RTA, RTO, Traffic Police sleep on chocked routes
Notwithstanding the need to decongest City center of Lal Chowk and adjoining areas, the authorities have been furthering the mess by allowing tens of hundreds of stray Tata Sumo and other cabs to operate from the choked commercial hub.
The cabs ferrying passengers from other districts are allowed to operate from the City center, albeit in the absence of any designated stands. This way around ten thousand and growing cabs move around or remain parked at key junctions, waiting for passengers.
Over the past few years the government has issued permits to cabs like Tata Sumo and Innovas, which ferry passengers from across Kashmir to Srinagar. But the cabs operators allegedly operate arbitrarily on routes of their choice only to pick and drop passengers anywhere in the City center or elsewhere.
Observers said instead of issuing Stage Carriage permits, the Transport department and the Regional Transport Officer, issued Contract Carriage permit. “By virtue of contract carriage permit, these cab operators operate from somewhere to anywhere,” explained a retired Transport official asking not to be identified. He said this way the cabs rush across City with impunity.
A senior Traffic Police official while endorsing the problem said they have failed to “tame the cab operators”. “We cannot stop them from entering into the City center. All what we can do is fine them for wrong parking,” the official told Greater Kashmir.
The authorities have been allowing cabs to rush into the City knowing that there is little or no space for parking. A senior official admitted that except for three odd taxi stands with aggregate space of no more than 100 vehicles, there was no space for such cabs.
As a result the cabs operate from anywhere they find space. At Jehangir Chowk portion of the road is occupied by Tata Sumo and other cabs, while same is the scene near Lal Chowk, TRC, Poloview, Batamaloo and Dalgate.
The roadside parking of cabs puts passengers to inconvenience. “We have to literally chase to get into cab at congested places as scores of passengers are waiting to get Sumo for Islamabad,” said a commuter adding women face the worst of harassment while getting down or stepping into cabs.
The cab operators have their own pleas. “We jobless youth were issued permits and it was duty of the government to allot us stands but we have been left to fend for ourselves amid harassment by police,” said a cabbie adding that they often have to grease palms of Police and its Traffic wing for every trip to the City center. “It seems that the government wants to keep us dependant because of some vote bank politics,” said another cab operator.
Even though the Regional Transport Authority(RTA) headed by the District Development Commissioner was expected to be annually streamline the traffic, observers said, over the years their annual meetings remained confined to “chitchat where tea and snacks were relished.”
The RTA failure has been allegedly so brazen that over the years public transport commuters from Old City are forced to travel via congested long routes.
This mess comes despite the personal intervention of Chief Secretary Muhammad Iqbal Khanday who held several meetings seeking traffic regulation with emphases on making public transport convenient and vibrant as the government admits that 75% of people travel by buses.
Sources said Traffic Police had proposed to the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Shailendra Kumar, DDC Farooq Ahmed Shah and the Transport Commissioner that cabs coming from other districts to the City be stopped on the outskirts.
It was proposed that cabs coming from south Kashmir be stopped near Nowgam Railway Station and those coming from north had be stopped near Parimpora highway. Likewise vehicles coming from Ganderbal could be stopped on the Nammath. All the three designated venues, as per the proposal had adequate space to house Tata Sumo and other cabs. From there minibuses could ferry commuters to the City center or elsewhere. But then the proposal was never taken seriously while mini buses, as per commuters, have been taking them for a ride.