By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 23 Oct: Dehradun has one of the highest per capita number of vehicles in the country. However, despite such a high density of vehicular population, Dehradun’s roads and infrastructure have not kept pace with the ever rapidly increasing vehicular population. As a result, it is common to see long traffic snarls on all the major feeder roads and highways of the city almost every day and, in particular, during school timings and in the evening hours, which is the peak time for traffic woes in the state capital. This problem only increases further during the weekends and particularly the extended weekends when a large number of vehicles from Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and UP also arrive in Doon. The situation turns totally unmanageable for the Traffic Police, which usually swings into action only when the situation is already at its worst. By the time Police gets serious, everything already is out of control.
Dehradun Police have suggested the Odd-Even formula to keep the problem in check but this has serious limitations. The Odd-Even formula means that, on one day, vehicles with a number having the last digit as an odd number will only be allowed to ply and, the next day, the vehicles with the last digit being an even number will be allowed to ply. So far, there has been no such decision taken but Dehradun Police have sought suggestions and feedback from the people in this regard. Here we can see how it will not work at all in reducing the traffic woes in Dehradun.
First, consider the reasons behind traffic woes in Dehradun. One is, of course, the high density of vehicles, and probably this is the reason why the Police have suggested the Odd-Even formula. The second reason is that the vehicular population has grown rapidly in Dehradun but the roads have not grown or have not been widened enough, which leads to the roads and streets to be full of vehicles almost throughout the day – more so in the lunch hours when schools close for the day and in the evening when offices close. Even the population of the district and, in particular, the capital city has grown at around the highest rate in the country because of large scale migration from the hills and the neighbouring areas of Uttar Pradesh, namely Najibabad (Bijnor), Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, etc. Almost the entire labour force in the city, be it construction workers, technicians, mechanics, vegetable venders and fruit venders, plumbers, fabricators, and construction contractors, is from other states because of large scale migration to Dehradun. The public transport system is virtually non-existent and hardly serves just five to seven percent of the population. This lack of an effective public transport system like local buses, local vans, rapid rail, mono rail or metro, forces people to leave homes for the day in their vehicles. Another major reason is the absence and non-implementation of a good master plan and planned development. The master plan in force currently in the city has been deviated to a great degree from the original one. In the Master Plan, there was a provision of Zonal planning which was never implemented in reality. Had a proper and well envisioned Master Plan been there and had it been seriously implemented, one would have seen many link roads which connect the main arteries of the city, namely Rajpur Road, Saharanpur Road, Haridwar Road, Haridwar Bypass Road, Raipur Road, Chakrata Road and GMS Road. Absence of enough link roads forces everyone to traverse through these main roads only, while main roads could have been avoided with properly planned link roads. The necessity of link roads has never been considered seriously by the government due to the requirement of land acquisition and funds. With each passing day, with no vacant plots remaining to acquire, this concept is becoming almost unimaginable. Absence of flyovers, overbridges and railway overbridges is another reason, which is why the intersections of all major roads are seen choked with vehicles for the greater part of the day.
With a non-existent public transport system, the people can’t be forced to accept the Odd Even formula. After all people do have to go out every day for work, to schools or hospitals, etc. Odd even formula may force people to consider the option of buying another vehicle, which will not help at all. The Odd-Even formula had been experimented at great length in Delhi some years ago and had to be discarded. It can’t succeed for sure in Dehradun, which has no public transport option available to most people.
The only viable solution lies in decongesting the roads by widening them, by constructing flyovers on roads and intersections and to improve the public transport system so that at least a certain section of the population may consider switching over to it for daily commuting. Decongestion of the city to some extent is also possible by shifting some major offices outside the city limits or to the outskirts. The district courts, District collectorate, Municipal Corporation and Tehsil office, some other government offices can be shifted out. The Vidhan Sabha and the Secretariat also need to shift out which will help decongestion of the Centre of the city to some extent and can reduce the pressure of traffic.
One more useful step will be to set up local and intercity tourist vehicles network which can carry tourists arriving in Dehradun to local sights and to Mussoorie, Rishikesh, Haridwar and Dhanolti, etc., as this can encourage tourists to consider reaching Dehradun by public transport and then utilising the locally operated tourist vehicle system for commuting in and around Doon. One serious need is to create many more parking places for local people as well as tourists so that once the tourists arrive in Dehradun, they can park their vehicles and use the tourist vehicle system. But Odd Even formula is not at all practical or workable. Most workable solutions require strong political will and huge funding and are unfortunately beyond the jurisdiction of the Dehradun Police. Meanwhile, one practical thing that can be done by the Police is to man the roads and intersections with more traffic cops who pay more attention towards maintaining the traffic flow rather than stopping the two wheeler owners at every intersection and issuing tickets to them. Or spend time looking at their smartphones.