BY KULDEEP SINGH
Centuries back riverbeds have provided fertile ground for the human population. It was witnessed that with the abundance of food grain and more than sufficient fodder to cattle’s the human species has multiplied rapidly. Later with the industrial revolution focus shifted from lush green tracks to large chimneys emitting clouds of smoke. Though this area was prone to many perils and health hazards, but people got enticed by it.
Spinning wheels of industry have increased the productivity and job avenues. This ultimately opened way for population shift. People doing jobs, started settling near these production units and some having least in their pockets started living in the slums. They dwell in huts made up of mud, tents of tarpaulin or of jute bags.
It’s a very precise gist of one part of the civilization and its development. This was the story of the plains. Now the hills want to narrate its tale. With the passage of time, trekking seems a distant dream in many parts of Himachal Pradesh. Maximum of the villages are connected with roads, rest sooner or later will be linked. The serpentine spread of these has given a new shape to human settlements. A mammoth shift is visible. Maximum wants to construct or already constructed their sweet homes on the road edges. It opened vistas for various unwanted ordeals.
The Queen of Hills and its peripheral areas are bearing the brunt of undue congestion. The constructions are so haphazard that it makes the mockery of rules and regulation framed by the department of Town and Country Planning. Maximum people are constructing or constructed their ‘dream paradise’ on the sides of the roads. In majority, the houses were constructed by flouting rules and squeezing the ‘control width area.’
This spate has increased the traffic woes to manifold. Free flow of traffic is distant dream now. Commuter face tonnes of problems in the areas of Dhali, Sanjouli, Panthaghati, Phagali, Chakkar, New Totu, Totu and now new construction are taking place beyond Ghanhatti. No change is visible in the temperament of these new settlers. There seems to be no meaning of rules and laws to them. Situation is grimmer on Shimla-Manali National Highway. Jungle of concrete popped up in very short interval of time. Resident of these areas parked their vehicles on the road sides and accumulates the problems to manifolds.
Rapid and untamed construction is visible on the banks of this NH from Ghanhatti onward to 16 Miles. Ghanhatti, once considered as a rural area for the people residing in capital town of Shimla and its adjoining areas within the diameter of eight kilometres. But now the modern jungle of concrete spread beyond it, the lush green slopes of pastures and meadows are lost. The charm of monsoon clouds and fog embracing these has reduced. Soothing and tranquil view is history now. Coming generation of our species would not witness these mesmerising scenes of nature. They will not see (re-play of) these on the silver screen of their mind when they will close their eyes while sitting in isolation and doing introspection.
Everyone wants to construct their homes on road-heads and covering maximum of the area left after the terra firma. I don’t know the reason behind this reckless spate. Majority of the people participating in this race are educated, either in government job or businessmen. Astonishingly, rule and regulation stands little in front of this class. Theorists of the times like Marx, Foucault and Freud would have been felt perplexed while investigating in to it.
The state government dare to accept this challenge whenever they come out of the hibernation. Whether it is a serious endeavour or just a lip service, it is not a matter to be debated! As ‘big mind’ of our bureaucrats and politicians are involved in it, so they never are wrong. More recently the state government is mulling to make changes in the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act. Policymakers are trying to take the help of Information Technology. They are taking stride towards Digital India. To become more people friendly, the above said department has launched mobile app – HIMTCP, for the ease of masses.
But there is an irony of working of this department. It seems to be concerned with short term gains. Their main focus is on short term plans. Meanwhile the settlements are taking place at a rapid speed. Moreover, leaders sitting on the treasury bench give concessions to the violators by regularising these constructions time and again. Vote politics is the only visible reason and covertly touts have good earnings from this department.
Besides this, Union Road and Transport Ministry is also mulling to frame new regulations regarding road safety. The draft of the proposed bill emphasize on the need of making roads and national highway safe. In tandem working of the Union and State government can provide a solution of congestion and haphazard construction. Moreover, it will reduce the number of fatalities occurred due to road mishaps.
Solution lies within us, just we have to revere laws. Otherwise the government has to come with harsh steps. People flouting laws should be dealt with punitive action instead of mere political freebies. Panchayats and municipalities should have to play a proactive role. Education should be imparted at school and offices. Adhering laws will make the sweet homes more comfortable to live otherwise numerous ordeals will remain standing on your threshold. They are not going to itch and irk politicians and touts. Only and only the house owners and their families have to bear the brunt. Neglecting rules convert the dream of sweet home in to a nightmare.
Kuldeep Singh is Professor in Himachal Pradesh Central university ,Shahpur,Kangra,H.P.