J&K State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) on Sunday appealed public not to board a public vehicle that is already full to capacity. In a handout issued here, SDMA has appealed public in general and passengers, in particular, instead of boarding a vehicle that is already full to capacity, should wait for the next bus or taxi. The official communiqué further informs that if a person sees any vehicle overloaded, he should immediately report the matter, either by calling or sending the picture with all the necessary details on designated numbers. The SDMA assures that stringent action will be taken against the defaulter and your identity will be kept confidential. The call for not travelling in overloaded vehicles comes in the wake of increasing road accidents across the state. It is quite a welcome step but the concerning part is that the people in authority have awakened to this acute problem very late. It is a public matter that the Officials from the department of traffic police and traffic control may have claimed their concern for traffic rules and travel safety norms but when it comes to the ubiquitous practice of overloading the buses with passengers, it seems they are least bothered. Overloading is a normal practice in the state. Stuffed in the buses like chickens in a poultry farm, passengers are also foisted to stand in the window and are generally seen hanging half in the air. On top of that, when there is no room at all, some don’t mind climbing the rooftop, throwing caution for safety to the wind. All this happens right under the nose of police and traffic officials. Most of the times, the people meant to implement traffic rules do rarely stop such vehicles. When making a fast buck gains precedence over human life, accidents are only a matter of time. Overloaded buses and trekkers have triggered many an ugly mishap on city roads, but drivers refuse to learn their lesson even the hard way.
Inspector General of Police for Traffic, Basant Rath, is an acclaimed police officer who initially seemed to be quite enthusiastic in bringing in discipline in the traffic management. He would be seen managing and monitoring traffic at crucial junctures and congested places personally. But with the passage of time, he too seems to have lost the steam now. Though there has been substantial improvement in overall traffic system with not-so-frequent traffic jams on the city roads. However, the issue of overloading is still there. Overloading is not restricted to buses and mini buses only even light vehicles like Sumo taxi drivers do indulge in this ill practice. A Sumo taxis is passed for seven passengers including the driver. But one sees a minimum of 11 passengers in a Sumo taxi. There is no check and control on these drivers. Over the years, the state government has been seemingly quite magnanimous in meeting the demands of transporters for fare hike from to time but that has little lessened their greed. Every time ahead of fare hike we are told that the transporters would have to improve facilities like proper seating, availability of public transport on all inhabited routes and above all assure that no overloading takes place. This, however, has proved a mere ritual statement as the condition of passenger vehicles worsens with each hike in fare. For overloading, the passengers too are responsible. If buses have no vacant seats, why to board them. Can’t they wait for the next bus? Whatever the causes, the overall traffic system is in quite mess. Until the traffic police is not serious about this issue, the system will never improve. IG traffic Basant Rath needs to pull up his socks again. Instead of indulging in debates and discussions with the passers-by in the streets, he needs to recharge his men to infuse the much-needed discipline on the roads.