By Gulshan Bassan
On one evening of March I was standing at the Bakshi Nagar Pulli outside Apaka Dawa Bazar and was waiting for a Metadoor to come. After waiting for few minutes I saw a metador coming from jewel, I waived it to stop but it did not stop and ran away in its unusual speed with its door closed. While waiting I noticed a desirable change in the road traffic. Like everyone else, I was appreciating the work done by newly appointed IG Traffic Basant Rath in few days. I saw another metadoor coming, I again waived it to stop but like the previous one it did not stop to lift me up. Same happened with the third one. I waited for 25 minutes, then fortunately a metador stopped with my signal, pick me up and shut his doors again. I got a front seat alongside the driver. I asked the driver that why metadoors are not picking up the passengers and keeping their doors shut. He then told me that Traffic IG Basant Rath is charging them challans for overloading therefore they are not lifting the passengers exceeding the sitting capacity of the metadoors. I appreciated this thing because overloading is actually a big risk to life. But at the same time I realised that public transport in the state is actually very bad. There is no government transport available of any kind except few SRTC buses.
All the busses and metadoors are private one. The number of daily base passengers is too high to be accommodated in the available busses and metadoors. But the real problem is that the roads are too narrow in the state, especially in Jammu and has been congested by the innumerable personal two and four wheelers. There was actually a need to mend the traffic in the state.
Since Mr. Basant Rath’s appointment as IG traffic I saw people discussing his unique style of doing the things at every nook and corner. In the initial days every single individual was discussing Mr. Rath even those who did not step up on these roads since he took command of traffic in his hands. Soon he became a celebrity, a charismatic figure. People surrounding him on the road became a regular sight. Everyone tried to capture him in there camera and posted his pictures and videos on social media with all well-deserved appreciation. Some boys even composed song on him. He got lot much appreciation firstly for making the challans to an Audi of his colleague’s son and then for charging a police van for violating traffic rules.
But soon he became victim of heroism started doing things in an autocratic manner violating the human rights at large. Metadoor drivers and conductors started complaining with each other of the way Mr. Rath was treating them. On many occasions he beat them up and abused matador drivers in their mother and sisters. Not only had this he even distributed the hard earned money of these metadoors into the public.
As this is well known that roads in the state are very congested so any kind of encroachment on roadside is actually needs to be vacated in a proper manner. But Mr. Rath did this again by violating the human rights of many vendors engaged in temporary self-employment by selling different kinds of stuff on rehris and faris. In order to free the roadside from the encroachers he again treated these poor people in an undignified manner by abusing them and spoiling and even burning the stuff along with rehris and faris. With this very act of vacating the roadside many of the poor has become jobless and has left nothing to do but protest and agitation. In continuation of this anti-encroachment of roadside Mr. Rath assumed the powers of JMC and went into the market streets to vacate them from the encroachment by the different shopkeepers but well this is good and appreciate able. But his same drive at Vikram Chowk against Photostat shops is somewhat not justified. He asked the shopkeepers to push their stat machines inside the shops which were already under the roof of their shops is not understood. But yes, all these shopkeepers had installed their generators on the pavement that needed to be well removed. Few days back Mr. Rath spilled over the food of the roadside dabha opposite hotel Ramada for continuously two days in his anti-encroachment derive of roadsides. Again treated them in undignified manner and abusing them blatantly. On one incident that was posted on facebook by lady from Gandhi Nagar, she claimed that she and her daughter were fan of his working style, one day the little girl going from school to home saw their Hero and stopped to wish Mr. Rath but he dispersed them by abusing them in public. These all incidents are clear human rights violation.
The very working of Mr. Basant Rath has raised many questions. Firstly, the question arises for whom these roads are meant? Are these only for the middle class owning private vehicles or for the poor who are solely dependent on metadors and busses? Already the public transport is very limited and the daily passengers outnumber the sitting capacity of all the busses and metadors taken together on different routes in the state. Neither the passengers nor the drivers of busses and metadors have any option then overloading. Here I am not justifying overloading in any way, what I want to imply is that unless public transport is widened along with the narrow roads, unless there is no provision for government transport like in other states it is difficult to bring any positive change in the traffic. The most benefitted by the present change in traffic is the middle class because the lower class weather it may be a passenger or driver and conductor of a bus or matador, or self-employed rehri and fari vendors, they all suffered a lot in one way or the other. I am raising this question because the poor people who can afford only bus or a matador have to wait for hours for the one which is comparatively empty no matter how late he/she may be getting. It is generally assumed for
lower class that they have no value of time. They are comparatively free and no urgency to go their destinations. Imagine a student is having an exam and is waiting for a matador to come so as to reach an examination centre but no metador gives him lift and he gets late for his exam. Then, who is responsible? Here I am not saying that Mr. Rath will be responsible. But what I want to imply no policy or rule and regulation can be well implemented in isolation unless and until there is a link between one policy with the other. Secondly, a question arises that isn’t it a clear violation of human rights, abusing the offender in public, beating them, distributing their money, burning their stuff along with their qoisk and rendering them jobless. Third, how far his Nakka in the Jammu University premise is justified? Fourthly, is not there any alternate way of asking people to follow the traffic rules without violating their human rights?
As an administrator Mr. Rath must know this thing that every policy, rule and regulation has interconnections and interdependence. Implementation of one without taking into consideration of the other actually leads to chaos and many other problems rather than solving them. I don’t want to discourage Mr. Rath but as an administrator he must have control on his words and actions. Mr. Rath must also see if he is not becoming an anarchist and victim of heroism.
The author is a Ph.D. Scholar at Central University of Jammu.