SAHIL VERMAJAMMU: With Jammu roads getting almost shrunk for pedestrians, the pavements too are losing their identity and efficacy on the face of hawkers settling down to carry out their avocations. Forced to zigzag on roads in the midst of wrongly parked vehicles, the road users keep traversing on their own risk and responsibility. Most of the footpaths in the winter capital are not being used for the purpose they are meant due to unchecked encroachment, courtesy the pathetic approach of the Jammu Municipal Corporation and the district administration. The footpaths are laid to provide pedestrians safe passage of access to facilities and commercial precincts but in the city, the scenario is quite different as the same are being encroached by the hawkers, vegetable vendors and fruit sellers, especially in the busy streets of the city like Raghunath Bazaar, City Chowk, Purani Mandi, Raj Tilak Road and many other areas, leaving very little scope for pedestrians to walk and commuters to drive through. These makeshift business points on footpaths are major source of inconvenience to pedestrians. The commuters alleged that due to paucity of space it is becoming difficult to drive on the main roads. This also gives an ugly look to markets and create problems for general public, they added. Encroachment is a big issue in the capital city but nobody is bothered to tackle the same. Besides, illegal parking of private vehicles on the main roads is also adding to miseries of the residents commuting on daily basis. The Jammu Municipal Corporation, which is nodal agency to clear encroachments from the footpaths and pavements, carries out eviction drives once in a blue moon giving ample scope to offenders to run their businesses from walkways causing undue inconvenience to people. The congestion on the footpaths – meant for the pedestrians – force them to walk on the roads, posing risk to their life from the reckless drivers. “We are facing various problems while walking in the area because footpaths and roads are captured by the hawkers and shopkeepers, said Ranjit Sharma, a local resident of Jammu. “The encroachment of footpaths is putting the lives of pedestrians to danger and is constant source of annoyance as far as general public is concerned. A large number of people lost their life in mishaps as they have to walk in middle of roads and streets due to encroachment of pavements and even parts of roads by the hawkers and the shopkeepers,” Sharma said. “Nobody cares about the encroachment of roads and footpaths. The concern of pedestrians hardly makes it to the table of discussion. There is no one to keep an eye on shanty shops and hawkers that are everywhere on the footpaths. Footpaths are meant only for the pedestrians,” said Rumal Singh, a senior citizen and retired Administrative Office from Military Engineering Services, who is also the victim of such encroachments as he often faced difficulty while moving in the market. There are several acts and policies that safeguard pedestrian rights indirectly. The National Urban Transport Policy (2006) also suggests provisions for pedestrians but the same have not been made mandatory. The Draft Bill of the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Act has also suggested a separate board at the national and state level to look into road safety and provide and promote special requirements for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. But unfortunately, it has not been constituted yet. Inspite of this, nothing has been mentioned for pedestrian infrastructure in the JnNURM, the country’s biggest urban infrastructure programme till date which is a glaring omission. Besides, lack of implementation makes these provisions for pedestrian protection futile.
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