By: Engineer Hafeez Ur Rahman
So called Srinagar Smart City is not only rich in Stray dogs population and their attacks on civilians, insufficient Drainage Infrastructure, Traffic Jams, Narrow Roads, Lack of Garbage Trash Bins, Electricity shut downs during winters, Air pollution, Unplanned Development, Drug Abuse and Unemployment but facing usual traffic mess and Road Accidents due to occupying Footpath and Roads by street Vendors and shopkeepers Encroachments.
The Srinagar City, particularly in Residency Road, Lalchowk,Court Road, AmiraKadal, Hari Singh High Street,Batamalu Bus Stand Road,Khanyar, BohriKadal, Jamia Masjid, MaharajGunj, RajouriKadal and Gowjara, due to the shopkeepers encroachment and street vendors have occupied the footpaths and roads ensuring the movement of vehicles and pedestrians difficult as well as risky.
The SMC officials and Traffic Police have failed to act against the violators. Anti-Encroachment Drive stunts have been carrying for decades but still the vendors come back ag.ain and again.
Even at shrines like Hazratbal Shrine, Makhdoom Sahib Shrine, Dastegeer Sahib Shrine at Saraibala, the street vendors have occupied the Roads. At Kashmir University Street vendors have also occupied roads. The street vendors also occupying footpaths at tourist spots like Boulevard and Dalgate.
These footpath vendors carry their business either on the behest of either local politicians or police support or both
The Amirakadal Road on either side have been occupied by vendors resulting traffic chaos on the bridge, which always have heavy traffic movements. There is even no space left for pedestrians to walk on the AmiraKadal Bridge Footpath as most of the bridge footpath is occupied by street vendors and fisherwomen, they should be removed from the pavements to ensure smooth movement of traffic and pedestrians safety.But Traffic Police and Srinagar Municipality Corporation have closed their eyes and till date have not taken any action.
The SMC and Traffic Police have also failed to implement the directions of the High Court that were passed to ease the traffic congestion and free illegally occupied spaces in the City.SMC should identified some vending zones in Civil Lines for the re-location of the street vendors
The illegal occupiers maintain good liaison with some politically influential people to run their businesses on the footpaths and police corruption. Otherwise, it is few hours job for the police to free these footpaths and roads from vendors and shopkeepers encroachments.
It is a matter of concern that footpath vendors are occupying space on the Roadsides also. The vehicles are being seen struggling to move and pedestrians craving for a smooth walk, especially at Residency Road, AmiraKadal, GhoniKhan,Maharaja Bazar,HariSingh High Street and Batamaloo Bus Stand Road. Pedestrians fear walking on these roads.
“I have seen people walking on the Road between Residency Road to Jahangir Chowk via AmiraKadalmet with accidents” Gowhar Khan, a shopkeeper in Residency Road told to Kashmir Media Watch. “The whole footpath, even Road is occupied by Hawkers and Encroachments,” he says.
Rahim parks his Barbecue Grill Cart adjoining the footpath near GantaGhar, LalChowkand serves his customers who either stand on the footpath or sit in their vehicles on Road, which block the road. The same is story about others who park their Barbecue Grill Carts at GhantaGhar, Hari Sigh High Street, Batamalu Bus Stand Road, Khyber Hospital Road and other places in Srinagar.
Rayees,an Civil Engineer, suggested that the fault lies in the design of the Roads and Footpaths. “The road should be built in such a way that it facilitates both Vehicle users and Pedestriansand separate space should be given to the Hawkers,” he further suggested.
Jahangir, a readymade garments vendoron the footpath near Ganta
Ghar, LalChowk, while talking to KMW, shares that the problem arises only if the businesses cause a traffic jam; even the traffic officials get irritated and ask us to vacate. “I have witnessed few spot-death accidents on this road till date. I do not attend many customers at the same time to avoid such mishaps,” Jahangir says.
Most of the footpaths and Pavements are occupied by two-wheelers, street vendors; tea stalls extending their stands, signboards kept by shops keepers, mannequins, hawkers and some people have even put up small houses with plastic sheets, leaving very little space for pedestrians. This one can easily see this violation at Residency Road, Court Road, AmiraKadal Bridge,Harisingh High Street, Road ,Batamaloo Bus Stand Road and Maisuma Bazaar where encroachments and hawkers are rampant. The shopkeepers and customers park their vehicles on Roads only. Pedestrians are left with no option but to walk on middle of busy road.
Maqsood dada, a Steel Furniture Shopkeeper near Gowkadal, while having conversation with KMW, shares that Maisuma Bazaar Road (Akhada Building to Gowkadal) is narrow in width. “Ithas become most crowded and traffic jam route. This is root causes encroachments on roads on either side.” he says.
This causes traffic jams and makes difficultly for pedestrians also. There is huge passenger vehicles movements for last one year which is makes road always busy and traffic jams .The shopkeepers are losing the businessday by day because customers are not able to park their vehicle even for aminute.
Shopping Hubs in Civil Lines of Srinagar like Dal Gate,Residency Road, Regal Chowk,Court Road, KokarBazaar,AmiraKadal,Ghunkhan,Hari Singh High Street Road and others where thousands of people walk in and out have lost their footpaths and pavements completely.
Many places shop-keepers, Show Rooms, Restaurants and Malls have converted footpaths and Sidewalks into a parking lot for two-wheelers and light four wheelers.The City Mall on M.A. Road is usually major cause of Traffic Jam of Road that connects Civil Secretariat and Dalgate. The visitors of the Mall usually keep their vehicles on adjacent footpath and road side which blocks the highly busy Road. I don’t know why authority is silent and not taking notice of it when the Traffic Police HeadQuarters Office is just hardly 200 feetaway from the Mall.
Many streets in Srinagar turn their streets into hawker zones after a certain time and these are popular tourist zones. Traffic through these streets is stopped and only pedestrians and hawkers selling their wares are allowed.
The government makes footpaths as it’s sensible and helps reduce road-accidents if not prevent them. Hawkersstrength enhance, day by day, due to corruption, police apathy and public inaction.
Thecustomers want to park their vehicles in front of shops and business establishments at gantaghar lalchowk, says owner of international hotel at gantaghar.
While sharing a conversation with International Hotel owner and few Shopkeepers at GhantaGhar, they said, “we approached to DC Srinagar for Yellow Line parking near GhantaGhar to park vehicles of customers and it has been officially approved. But Traffic Police refusedto allow the Yellow Line,” they said.
They alsoexpressed angerand serious concerns that the Park near GhantaGhar was actually the open pace for parking used for shopkeepers and customers till ending nineties. “But later space has been converted into Park where local residents and customers used to take rest,” they said. They suggested that the same Park can be reconverted into the Parking zone for nearby shopkeepers and business establishments.
But the Hotel owners and Shopkeepers near GhantaGhar are worried and deep shock after recent statement of City Mayor, Mr.Junaid that A Plaza is coming up at Park Space near Ghanta Ghar. The Plaza will boost Traffic mess, Crowd and pollution at Ghanta Ghar. It will be an attack on Beauty of historical LalChowk.
My person view, since the state has been converted into UT administration, the all developments in Srinagar is happening in unprofessional and unplanned way with poor designing techniques.
The government should facilitate alternative spaces/zones for street /footpath vendors.While havinga long discussion with some senior local footpath hawkers and vendors at LalChowk,Srinagar who do their readymade garment business and other items on footpath and on Road Side for decades, I came to know about LalChowkFootpath Mafia Business.
Some senior footpath venders, in LalChowk like Farooq Hakim, Nazir Ahmad Bagav, Shafiq Ahmad Sofi, MehrajuddinDalay, Showkat Ahmad Gani and others shared some details with me. They said,”If Govt don’t want hawkers blocking the footpaths, then the government should provide them with alternatives”.
They said, “in 2016, the Municipality planned to accommodate the all Footpath vendors of Residency Road, GantaGhar, Court Road, and AmiraKadal Bridge in the Mecca Market space which was vacant and is SMC property.
On the instructions of some Municipality officials and some persons who have good access with local politicians, only 30% footpath vendors have been accommodated the space in Mecca Market. While as remaining 70% of vendors have been allotted space on bribe who were not footpath vendors of Residency Road ,GantaGhar,Court Road and AmiraKadal. They were never part of this footpath vendors / hawkers business.Some well settled shopkeepers and owners of restaurants/hotels and others have been allotted the space in Mecca Market.
Even though there is no legal allotment given to any Street Vendor at Mecca Market by Municipality but the Sale and Resale of vendors space in Mecca Market is on peak since 2017 to till date.
The senior footpath Vendorsof the area who deserves the allotment in Mecca market alleges that Mecca Market illegal Sale of spaces is joint venture of some politically backed goons andsome SMC officials.
Recently Jammu and Kashmir’s Apni Party arranged a Public Rally at Sher e Kashmir Stadium Srinagar on 13 November 2022. While AltafBukhari was on his way from his residence toSher e Kashmir Stadium, the people present in rally changed slogans, “Sunday Market Zindabad”.
I humbly request SMC authority, Div.Com and LG of UT to intervene the matter and to release immediate orders to vacate the illegal occupation of Mecca Market. The Municipality can utilise the Mecca Market space for building a Mega Mall, Plaza, Parking Hub or Intra District Bus/Auto/Taxi Stand.
The local vendors present at Mecca Market could be adjusted in Plaza or Mall by SMC or they should be provided sufficient alternatives so that they can feed their families.
The Sunday Market from AmiraKadal to Doordarshan Srinagar is major problem for smooth function of traffic and cause of traffic jams. The Srinagar Municipality Corporation should provide alternatives like the Bund space on either side of Jehlum River from AmiraKadal Bridge to Zero Bridge for footpath vendors and for Sunday Market Space.There is no vehicle movement on the Bund Path on either side. It could be safest alternative for footpath vendors and hawkers, if authority hasno objection.