The Webster dictionary defines “Anarchy” as, “a situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group, organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws”. The definition fits Kashmir in every way! Let us begin with the traffic. Not only people violate the rules and laws but in the first instance they do not know at all what the rules are. They get driving licenses without knowing any traffic rules. The worst violators are mini-bus drivers who stop in the middle of the road or even at turns blocking all traffic. The passengers too are guilty as they want to be picked up and dropped wherever they will. They do not have the patience to walk few steps to a bus stop. The auto-rickshaws have the entire road to themselves. They move through the traffic like racers turning and twisting everywhere. The knowledge of fast lane, slow lane, and heavy vehicle lane does not exist here. Anybody can be in any lane. Overtaking has no rules. People overtake you from all sides. Pedestrians are not counted at all. Most of the foot paths are with street vendors or the shopkeepers exhibit their wares on the foot paths leaving pedestrians no choice but to walk on the road itself. Next comes parking. There are not enough parking places so people park cars on both sides of the road. Shopkeepers park their vehicles in front of their shops and the customers have no place to park theirs. One can go on endlessly about the anarchist traffic system. In fact, there is no system. Each for himself!
In forties, Srinagar was a city of a hundred thousand people or so. Now, its population is more than a million and a half. The roads have virtually remained same with some new ones added and earlier ones expanded but the number of vehicles has grown from 45 or so in 1947 to almost a quarter million! The Kashmir valley has over a million vehicles. In spite of a number of studies conducted by experts and detailed plans given, the government has been sticking to ad hoc decisions of the rulers from time to time. Fly overs are made for convenience of rulers to reach the secretariat and airport rather than to ensure smooth flow of traffic. In every place before starting construction of fly overs, alternate routes for ensuring smooth flow traffic are made. Not in Kashmir. Everything is done on the spur of the moment causing extreme inconvenience to citizens. One can judge the capability of our agencies from the ramshackle contraptions of barbed wire, metal pieces, and plastic road dividers etc. put at various places to contain traffic in a particular direction.
Moving away from traffic to Municipal and Civic facilities, the less said the better. Kashmir is fast becoming a “Garbage Paradise” for the unchecked population of stray dogs. It is in fact, “Dog’s Own Country” in contrast to famous Kerala Tourism slogan of “God’s Own Country”! The condition of roads and drainsis a separate story in itself. Roads macadamized with 80 mm thick layers develop pot holes in less than couple of months. The electric wires running all over especially in the down town area tell their own story. It is a wonder that we do not have dozens of people electrocuted every day. One of the Russian engineers while touring through the city and knowing that no one gets electrocuted here, remarked that he had started believing in GOD!
Regarding land use, building permissions and building bye laws, the less said the better. Each in itself is a separate story!
A question arises, what is the cause of this anarchy? The answer is simple, lack of enforcement of umpteen laws and rules and total absence of accountability of the supposed enforcers. Often the blame is put on our character. In fact, many historians have given worst surnames and epithets to us. However, some have after deep analyses absolved the common Kashmiri and put the blame on our rulers.
Sir Walter Lawrence in the “Valley of Kashmir”, says, “Finally, though the character of Kashmiris leaves much to be desired, I think that it is to their credit that it is not worse, considering the few chances they have had for becoming truthful, manly, and self-respecting. A man who can be beaten and robbed by anyone with a vestige of authority soon ceases to respect himself and his fellow-men, and it is useless to look for the virtues of a free people among the Kashmiris, and unfair to twit them with the absence of such virtues. The Kashmiri is what his rulers have made him, but I believe and hope that two generations of a just and strong rule will transform him into a useful, intelligent, and fairly honest man”. Unfortunately, we have yet to see that just and strong rule!