With BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Audis getting popular, the need
for speed on roads is understandable. These are fast cars and are safe and
stable too. But no matter how broad a road you get to drive in India, you still
have to be careful, because you may hit a stray goat, cow or pig. You may hit
children or old people crossing without bothering to see speeding vehicles. But
the worst part is that we do not have roads where we can even maintain a simple
speed limit of 50kmph.
I have often wondered why
India cannot build its roads efficiently. I have been staying in Vasant Kunj in
South West Delhi, considered to be a tony neighbourhood with cars of all shapes
and sizes jostling for space here. When I first moved into this colony in 1989,
there were no approach roads to this mega colony. Yes, the roads were not
macadamised and one had to travel on rock and pebble laid stretches to reach
home. Those were the days when farm houses were beginning to mushroom just behind
Vasant Kunj area. These farm house owners had imported jeeps and SUVs in which
they travelled to access their new homes. For many of us who had Fiat and
Ambassador cars or ordinary two-wheelers, life was tough.
By 2015, the approach roads became
much better and there are two main roads connecting Vasant Kunj to the rest of
Delhi—the Nelson Mandela Road and the Aruna Asaf Ali Road. These roads have
been built well. It took the authorities
at least a couple of decades to build these roads! By this time the vehicle
parc increased several folds and each house on an average started possessing at
least three cars. Traffic in the area increased significantly.
Several years ago a new
international airport was constructed and it is often referred to as the T3 airport.
A good part of Delhi accesses this airport through Vasant Kunj. Yes, there a
road that connects Mehrauli and Mahipalpur known as the Abdul Ghaffar Khan Road
which leads to the airport. This road which divides Vasant Kunj, passes through
two horribly crowded and congested markets that go by the name Masudpur and
Mahipalpur. Both these markets are unauthorised. This road barely has any space
for vehicles. The government announced a plan to broaden this road. This plan
was announced a long, long time back. If this road is actually broadened as it
has been planned, then it could change the traffic scenario in Vasant Kunj.
But then spoil sports are in
abundance in Vasant Kunj. They are the environmentalists. With all due respect
to them, they have only made things worse for those residing in Vasant Kunj.
They are up in arms against felling of trees for broadening of roads. Even
though it makes a lot of sense to knock of these trees, the environmentalists
feel otherwise. Instead of conserving the environment, these environmentalists
are spoiling things further. Because of the half done work and trees in the
middle of the roads, traffic jams happen 24 X 7 and this has led to high levels
of air pollution in the region. Unless the trees are felled, the road can never
be broadened and there can never be a smooth flow of traffic.
Two things are happening side
by side in India. One, bad quality roads are being built even now. Two, suddenly the Green Tribunal seems to be
playing a monstrous role in disallowing any progress to be made. We need to put
the Green Tribunal on hold. The government has to go ahead and build roads at a
greater speed. All over India the quality of roads is terrible. Yes, in certain patches, the roads are
amazing. But everywhere else, the roads are badly maintained or are hardly
existent. If a tony colony like Vasant
Kunj has bad roads, one can imagine how the rest of the roads in India are?
Unless road building is given top priority and is undertaken in a more serious
and honest manner, those travelling by road can only suffer in silence. If you
want to reach a dear one to the hospital on time, or you need to be in office
on time or return home to your family on time or travel by road across India
more often, then good quality roads are a must. Whether Modi understands it or
Kejriwal looks into it, the need is to hurry with building good roads.
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