In first week of March this year, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar passed instructions to relevant departments to improve traffic conditions for the public. While emphasising upon removing congestion on the entry and exit points of the province’s major cities, he ordered to streamline traffic through a ‘coordinated system because frequent traffic jams also result in socio-economic and psychological problems in society’.
hose who bewail the chaotic traffic conditions on the roads or suffer from psychological problems because of the unruly traffic should find the news heartening. However, it’s not the first time that a Punjab chief minister has ordered the concerned authorities to smoothen the traffic flow. Such instructions were passed in the past at regular intervals. For instance, in July 2015, CM Shahbaz Sharif presided over a high-level meeting in which various plans, including solar battery operated traffic lights, cameras to monitor traffic flow, and imposing heavy fines on traffic violators were discussed.
Two years later in 2017, Shahbaz Sharif held another high-level meeting and ordered for “effective traffic management by removing encroachments and providing comprehensive parking system”.
Although Chief Minister Buzdar’s plan to improve the traffic conditions is laudable, people view it with apprehension since we have been there before. CM Buzdar specifically stressed upon removing encroachments and traffic hurdles on the exit and entry points of the main cities. But why go far when expansion work on the entry point of the provincial capital needs his attention. The construction work on the 10.7km long Hudiara Drain Project to extend Multan Road does not seem to end, even though this stretch of road has been redesigned and reduced from eight lanes — four each way — to six lanes, three each way. This short distance of road passing through the industrial area serves as a critical entry and exit point to and from the provincial capital on its southern end.
The political leadership may have noble ideas but how to translate such ideas into reality is the big question. What ails the traffic system is lack of supervision by the traffic police that do not seem interested in doing their job. The traffic wardens rarely check violation of one-way traffic rule by motorists or motorcyclists. The saddest news one often reads is about young brothers on a motorcycle getting killed when going to or returning from school or college. In the ensuing tragedy, what are the poor parents left with to look for in life? It would be advisable to flash frequently on TV the state of motorcyclists with head injuries lying unconscious in hospital wards.
However, what is most urgently needed is a traffic awareness drive to teach road-users that turning on the ignition key of the car, kick-starting a motorcycle, and getting on the roads is not enough. Driving requires strict adherence to the traffic rules, discipline, and courtesy for others on the roads. At present, our roads present a scene of rudderless vehicles in a jungle. While people are anxious to reach their homes or places of work, a large number of drivers are hooked to their cell phones and driving leisurely in the fast lane. Many drivers don’t know how to park their vehicles sensibly. They show complete disregard to other drivers when vehicles are increasing in number and parking space shrinking. And drivers in official vehicles are the worst offenders.
Traffic management presents a serious problem for the authorities. Most of the drivers, especially the elderly ones, seem edgy when driving. The current chief minister rightly observed that people are suffering from psychological problems, which also includes this writer. What needs to be done urgently is to restrain those who cause such problems. Orderly traffic will help portray us as a civilised nation.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.