We, the Government
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
GP’s report on 8th June rightly claimed that “Traffic jams in Mussoorie spoil hill station experience for visitors”. No one would want to spend good vacation time and money breathing in vehicular flatulence! Moreover, for those of us who live in this little Himalayan town year round, that day it was more than a jam. The traffic moved with the slow, dogged, viscosity of Marmalade! It was a traumatic experience.
Having said that, however, we do not agree with the reported opinion of “the locals” who blame our police for this mess. For the three hours that we were stuck in Gandhi Chowk, that afternoon, we observed the police at work. They were unfailingly polite, firm and efficient. They had to divert traffic onto longer routes to avoid snarls. Traffic snarls lead to road rage, berserk behaviour, and often bloodshed and fatalities. None of these happened during our enforced vigil. That is a feather in the cap of our police!
The cause of the problem is simple: the heat-wave sweeping across our land. People from the sun-scorched plains want to escape to a cool destination. Hopping into a car is the easiest and swiftest way of doing this. But when they come here they find that they have to spend most of their time in their vehicles, trapped in the same problems that they wanted to leave behind. Their cars consume fuel, get over-heated, and fill the air with the very pollution that they ran away from! They go back fuming and ranting, saying that Mussoorie has become a tourism slum, swearing never to visit Mussoorie again, spreading this awful image of our little town to all their family, friends and colleagues.
So what can be done to check this downward spiral of our town?
• The MDDA must stop sanctioning new buildings, and the expansion of old cottages into multi-storey monstrosities. We don’t need more cheap, sub-standard, tourist facilities. These sub-standard offerings, like sub-standard food, pollute the environment, burden our town far beyond its carrying capacity and create cess-pools of tourism slums.
• The MDDA must demolish illegal constructions and stop the practice of “compounding”. Compounding does not solve any problem – it brushes it under the carpet for a price. There is another, uglier, word for such a practice!
• Our Municipality must come down with a heavy hand on such doss-houses. We hope that our self-styled “activists” will not agitate against such self-disciplinary initiatives by the Board.
• Having said that, Board officials must ensure that their conduct is above reproach. When exercising authority in public, people are often tempted to be overbearing and abrasive.
• The MDDA must build a large parking facility near Kothal Gate, where the ghat section begins.
• This facility should offer long-term parking as we have in international airports. Also clean wash-rooms, as Malaysia does, left luggage storage, snack bars, and waiting rooms with a strictly time-bound occupancy.
• Mussoorie has very limited parking space. Every hotel, parking lot, government office and private house with overnight parking areas must declare such facilities. This information should be computerised and available to the police at Kothal Gate. When a vehicle wants to enter Mussoorie it must reveal where it has permission to park when it reaches our town. An obligatory fine of Rs 500 for every day or part thereof should be levied on every illegally parked vehicle.
• Special permits should be issued to taxis to ferry passengers from the Kothal Gate Parking Facility to Mussoorie and for the return journey.
Mussoorie suffers from periodic spasms of traffic paralysis because of a lack of planning. A new Carrying Capacity Study by the LBSNAA’s NSDART should be commissioned by our Municipal Board as a matter of high priority. We should get professionals on the job. We should not entrust it to superannuated bureaucrats who have not been able to find other gainful employment!
We can’t solve a problem unless we tackle its source. The District, and possibly State, Authorities must stop excessive traffic from flowing up to Mussoorie. Only then can our police control its movements.
The police, in this case, are fire-fighters. We must first, however, remove the source and cause of the fire.