J&K Residents Seek Efficient and Cheap Transport
A paradise for tourists, there is need for a better transport system in Jammu and
Kashmir “I mostly travel by mini-bus which is very crowded and takes longer routes.
But when I get late, I prefer to take an autorickshaw, which is easier but the fare is too high since they don’t run by the meter and charge whatever they see fit.” – University student Atika
by Mareaya Fayaz
Jammu and Kashmir is one of India’s most popular tourist destinations with stunning views that draw visitors from all over the world. Travelers are attracted by its serene beauty, captivating locations, and historical landmarks.
However, the Kashmir Valley’s connectivity to the rest of the country is still being developed
and the transportation infrastructure is insufficient and inefficient. The best way to get to the region & cities and towns is by road. The area has for long been reputed for having great road connectivity. The ancient Silk Road ran through the region, which connected Central Asia with the Indian subcontinent. Jammu and Kashmir comprise areas with varying
infrastructure, which has been a feature of the region since before independence. In several areas, however, local transport infrastructure is inadequate. The main means of transport used within the union territory include buses, cabs, autorickshaws, mini-buses and a new addition, electric autorickshaws.
Recently I visited Delhi for the first time and it was a thrilling adventure. What amazed me
the most about the busy streets of the capital was that travelling from one place to another
was so easy and hassle-free. I am talking about the Metro. Taking the Metro trains made it so easy for me because I had to cover a distance of around 14 km from where I was staying to reach my place of work. Travelling by Metro meant no traffic jams and I reached my destination in 20 minutes. Since we have no metro rail system in Jammu and Kashmir, we have to travel by mini-buses and autorickshaws, which suffer disruptions when there is a traffic jam or there is too much rain or snow. Travel that would actually take just half an hour to cover sometimes takes more than an hour or even two hours. A metro rail project was proposed for the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 and it was supposed to be completed by 2024. The project was expected to cost around Rs 9,590 crore. The Jammu and Kashmir government submitted a detailed project report for the Rs 10,599 crore project to the central government for approval. The project will improve the region’s transport infrastructure by leaps and bounds and will make it very convenient for people to move from place to place.
If you travel by public transport, the inconveniences include the bargaining you always have to do with autorickshaw drivers. According to the SRO Passenger Fare Revision 2021 the fare that can be charged for any distance is already given but the reality is vastly different .Autorickshaw drivers in both Srinagar and Jammu charge much more than the prescribed fare. In Delhi, when I was surprised that autorickshaw drivers charge around Rs 15/km. In Jammu and Kashmir, the fare is around Rs 50/km.
University student Atika said: “I mostly travel by mini-bus which is very crowded and takes
longer routes. But when I get late, I prefer to take an autorickshaw, which is easier but the
fare is too high since they don’t run by the meter and charge whatever they see fit.”
Padma Angmo, a student who lives in Nanak Nagar in the union territory of Ladakh, which is approximately 3.7 km from her university, said: “I feel very disappointed with the transport system. The mini-buses are too crowded and the autos don’t run by the meter. I am charged approximately Rs 250-300 for an auto ride to my place which is way too high. I have lived in Delhi and also Bengaluru and I was charged much less.”
My own experience is the same. In Delhi, I was charged Rs 300 for a distance of 23 km and
in Jammu I am charged Rs 350 from the airport to the university, which is just 6.6 km. In
Kashmir, I was charged Rs 300 from Jahangir Chowk to Parimpora, which is approximately 6 km. Autorickshaw driver Bhushan defended himself and said: “I charge the same as other drivers and I don’t think it’s too high. I don’t use the meter because no one here does and why do I need it anyway? I don’t think I am doing anything wrong.” Asked if he was aware about the SRO regarding passenger fares, he said he had no idea about it. Soon he got annoyed with all my questions.
This is an issue which should be looked into by the authorities, whose responsibility it is to
provide hassle-free transport to the common people because not all of them have personal
cars or bikes and they need to get to work, schools and universities. Not everyone can afford the exorbitant fares charged by buses and autorickshaws.