Baigsaab's Blog

Roads

Posted in Rants by baigsaab on November 18, 2004

Its 6 pm in Karachi, the sun is setting, the sky wears a beautiful shade of orange and red and in the foreground, one can see flocks of birds returning to their homes after a busy day in the skies. Everything seems to be perfectly in order, and it’s on that precise moment that you are pulled back to the ground. “Saddar…saddar, clifton, bunder road, tower aey…” It’s the cacophony of bus conductors who don’t want to waste a single moment to get yet another passenger aboard their already overloaded vehicle. You recall you are stuck in the middle of a traffic jam and you are far away from where you’re supposed to be. You are stranded; helplessly, you look again at the birds floating freely in the sky and think, if only I could fly!!!

There may not be an element of novelty in the lines that follow. I believe you are all aware of most of the facts that are stated in this write up. This is merely an effort to take out my frustration, rather disappointment, that’s a result of incessant traffic jams and rusty roadways. So even if this passage does not attract much of an audience, I’d be happy with a handful of people who read this one out and empathize with me based on their own similar experiences.

During the last three years, the interest rates from consumer banks have exponentially dropped from an agonizing 19% to a tempting 7-8%, and by the time this article gets published, that is if it ever does, we may witness further drop in the interest rates, thanks to the state bank for its policies which eventually are a result of consistent growth in the economy. These lower interest rates have enabled banks to repackage there loan plans. Easy loans with minimum fuss, that’s what the consumers are getting these days. Consumer banks claim that it’s possible for everyone to own a car or a house. We must admit that this is a niche’ that has paid them off big time. The initial cost of ownership of a brand new car has reached a record minimum and what’s left for one to decide is the brand of the car. Banks, under tremendous pressure from their competitors, will make sure they get your car driven at your doorstep, with minimum effort from you. The willingness of people to spend money and the willingness of banks to lend people money to spend has resulted in a positive flow of money; it all seems to have galvanized the overall economic situation. And our economy is now seemingly becoming a productive self perpetual unit.

However, since there’s no perfection to human invention, these policies too have their cons. What seems to be the success of our economic institutions has become a nightmare for the traffic authorities. Traffic in Karachi has never been exemplary, but in the recent years, it’s gone from not too bad to worse. Roads in Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular are not the best in the world, worse still after occasional monsoon. Karachi doesn’t get much of a rain anyway, but it seems like our local authorities want to make sure that whatever water comes down, stays there. One of Karachi’s busiest roads, shahra e Faisal, has the worst drainage systems for a world class road. Last year’s traffic jam on a rainy day where people actually spent the night in their cars on main roads is probably a good example.

If we include drigh road to shahra-e-faisal, we’ll probably have the longest piece of charcoal in Karachi. Then there are a couple of lengthy routes that are parallel to it, the university road and the sharah e Pakistan. If you happen to be traveling on any three of them from 5:30 to 6:30, you’ll agree with what I had written in the first paragraph. And for shahrah e faisal, this timeframe expands from 4:30 to 8:30. During that time, these roads witness the usual misbehaviors of our civilized society. Signals are violated; motorcyclists try to paddle their way through the narrow gap between two cars; people try to change lanes too quickly and in the process, a speeding car from behind would crash into them, which results in a fight between the drivers of both the vehicles, both blaming the other, and while doing so, they have a huge pile up of vehicles waiting behind them; there are heavy duty vehicles, sometimes a 12-16 wheeler which shouldn’t be allowed there in the first place, trying to take a U turn on main road. A fairly recent addition to the traffic problems is the increasing number of intra-city bus routes, of which some are so-called environment friendly and some are not so environment friendly; you must have seen the environment friendly buses emitting mass amount of black smoke, which certainly doesn’t seem to contain a lot of oxygen. Anyway, what I wanted to say is that these new routes and greener vehicles were brought in as an effort to improve the public transport facilities in Karachi. But this project, like many other ad hoc projects initiated by the planners, seems to have backfired on them. Instead of setting an example for the Mini buses and the Buses, the new buses have set their predecessors as examples. You can see them boarding and lodging passengers in the middle of busy streets, they don’t bother overloading passengers like any other. Their so-called air conditioning system gives in to the overload of passengers and makes the environment similar to that of a truck full of cattle. We have a mass transit program which is waiting for some miracle to get itself initialized. We’re still not sure whether we need a light train that travels above the ground or a subway that travels within the earth or whether it’s better for us to rejuvenate our ailing local railways. The common man doesn’t care whether he’s traveling in a bullet train or a local normal train. What he needs is a respectable way to travel from home to workplace and be back in time for dinner, and in one piece.

And then there’s the VIP movement, the latest buzz word in the traffic jargon. I understand that our leaders have a very busy schedule and they need to be present at many places in one time, and of course there’s the security threat that makes their protocol even more sensitive and important. I respect the concern of the security officers and I sincerely believe that they’re just doing their duty. At this point I must specify that I am not referring to the VVIP movement, which pertains to the protocol of people of the highest echelon in our country. I am referring to the not-so-important, ego-centric bunch of few, who exploit this protocol for a display of their importance. And it is due to this handful of people that the phrase VIP seems to have changed its meaning to “Very Intimidating People”. What I can’t understand is that why is it always necessary to move these VIP’s during the rush hour. Because by piling up the traffic on the other side of the road, you’re only increasing the threat level instead of decreasing it. And some people have a terrible price to pay for these VIP movements. You must have read in papers the many cases in which patients or a severely injured person were not allowed to be taken to the hospital because there was VIP movement on the other side of the road and the patient succumbed to the pain.

Increasing traffic is not the only problem we’re facing driving here, we have to deal with wrecked roads at the same time. You’ll see miniature versions of craters been built by various local government agencies. These guys just seem to wait for the completion of a road, which normally takes a year to be built in the first place, and when the drivers think it’s safe to drive through, they’ll send in their digging squad to drill through a piece of the road. Once they’re finished, it’s a cue for the other agencies to take their turn and start their own “mini-crater” project. Obviously, since these guys don’t belong to the roads department it’s not their problem to mend the damage they’ve done to it. So the road once again becomes all torn and tattered. And as in a series of unfortunate events, rain arrives, and those craters are filled with water and mud. Last year, in gulistan e jauhar, the road under the bridge literally became a mini river. Flocks of boys rested on the pavement anticipating a car would get stuck in the water and when it would, they charged Rs. 5-10 per person to get the car out of trouble. But that kind of thing is likely to happen in our city when people have to help themselves.

Right now there’re various huge development works being carried out in Karachi for the last eight to ten months, which is also a reason for increasing traffic jams. I understand the necessity of flyovers, underpasses and overhead bridges but I also feel the pace of work is not up to the mark. A year for a road is just too much time. With the local government elections just round the corner, the pace of work is likely to go up, but I think if people take the feeling of unrest with them to the pooling booth, they’ll certainly choose the people who’ll do their job, and quickly.
When these lines are being written, it’s the start of muharram. There’ve already been two huge traffic jams in F.B. area since traffic was diverted from various other routes to two points creating a bottle neck. Traffic authorities have blocked one lane for securing the mosques and that has aggravated the problem. In such a case, people refuse to listen to the traffic constables and one can only empathize with them seeing their helplessness. It’s hard to tell whether it’s us in the wrong lane or the car facing us. We’re stuck in the bottle neck and once again I couldn’t help but think – If only I could fly!!!

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3 Responses

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  1. Aamir Majeed Khan said, on November 18, 2004 at 13:27

    Faraz Baig I just have a glance on that article it’s good one I think chowk is a good place to publish ,the idea is if you write something good then maxm number of pplz should read finish it asap and one more thing faraz include the current condition of Rashid Minhas and aslo discuss abt traffic problem that occur b/c of amusement park like aladin in the city and also recommend to move all the city’s school in some big vacant place like dubai knowledge village,Since we look on nursery that little kidz take 30 min to out of nursery street only bcz of heavy traffic. …

  2. BaigSaab said, on November 18, 2004 at 19:04

    nice suggestion.. thanks 😉

  3. RR said, on December 28, 2004 at 20:10

    WAH RAY WAH KIA aRTICLE HAI BAboo JII


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