Every day during school hours in the state capital of Meghalaya, one will not fail to witness a mad rush of parents rushing the kids to school in time and the district administration in maintaining the vehicular flow. Both during school and after hours is considered as Peak Hours for the Shillong Traffic Police (STP), unlike in other states where this is during office or trading hours. In the course of easing out the traffic, school authorities in Shillong have spaced out the school timings, but with the recent rise of missing school children in the city it is evident that the school managements and the government have failed the student community in providing secure movement between home and school and vice versa.
As mentioned, the STP has a special group of Police personnel dedicated the School duties, the department had turned the busiest routes either to one way traffic or no vehicle zones only during school hours where even the other emergency services are deprived of entry toward hospitals if they are on the same route during these peak hours.
While most of the schools and hospitals are situated around Laitumkhrah area of Shillong, other choked points are Jaiaw, Barik towards Civil Hospital Point, Polo area and Jingking are facing the same menace of traffic congestion. The mentioned stretch of road too has a number of government offices, private enterprises and ever increasing residential complexes like any other locality with educational institutions.
In the past the plying of trucks and tourist taxis was held responsible for the traffic congestions. Now, even with the absence of trucks in the city and shifting out the tourist taxi stands from the heart of the city, yet there is no improvement in traffic flow. The traffic congestions are not caused only by the educational institutions; the government offices are the same, where the officials haphazardly park their respective vehicles right on the main road near the office. There is no demarcation of parking space for any of the employees, except for a few heads of the departments who are in fact posing a threat to the pedestrians in general and the school children in particular.
It is now become the compulsory duty of the parents to drop and pick up their wards from school, where the parents of respective schools have their own groups or circles which, besides discussing issues like homework, should now extend their services to the district administration to find a solution not only to ease the traffic congestion, but to protect the school students from various threats in the society.
The parents and some concerned citizen had once proposed the introduction of public transport like school bus, after they have experienced day long traffic jam. But after the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) bus operators refused to serve as school buses, the demand had its natural death.
The Court had earlier order that all educational institutions should have enough space for parking and enabling the vehicles to drop and pick up the students inside the campus. But such action was never adhered to by any of the schools and colleges, including the government schools while almost all the schools expect the parents to own a vehicle such that the students will reach the school in time.
Those from the affluent section who own eateries, hotels and hospitals are openly flouting the traffic rules by not providing the compulsory parking spaces within their respective complexes. Also within Laitumkhrah area, many high rising buildings have mushroomed in the last five years, but none of them have the provision for parking. Yet the authority concerned has allowed them to function as commercial complexes. While the National Green Tribunal had only expressed its concern over the output of waste from the drainages and not the accessibility and inclusive structure for public friendly.
More than confining to the educational institutions to regulate traffic flow, the district administration should regulate parking space for Government offices, execute the Supreme Court Order on hotels, eateries, commercial complexes and hospitals to have the provision of ‘enough’ parking space within the premises, which will ease more than fifty percent of traffic congestions in the city, and ensuring safety not only to the school children but every individual citizen in the city.
The authority should make it compulsory for educational institutions to own school buses then encourage public transports; it will surely reduce the number of vehicles for every individual child as being practiced now. The proposed ‘No vehicle movement’ is just a temporary solution, which will surely cause inconvenient to the public in general, and the school students in particular.
Making it compulsory for the school to have public transport; which the Defence and Police department are adopting will not only ease the traffic congestion, the safety and security of the students too could be maintained. The bus driver and conductor, if needed with a security personnel can pick up the students from their respective locality and drop them back after school and this has been proven as the safest means of transportation worldwide for school students. In other states even the college students have their public transport system, while here in the state capital the North Easter Hill University on various occasion expressed the loss incurred in the bus services.
The sheer number of vehicles that are seen on the city roads is another reason for the daily traffic snarls in the city. Keeping in mind that Shillong is an unplanned city with narrow roads at best, it is no wonder that the vehicles on the streets have to jostle for position, often causing more traffic problems when they move out of queue.
The ease with which people can buy cars now is also another factor as financing has become the order of the day. Nowadays, people can, with very little trouble, procure a car through financing and later pay a very nominal monthly EMI towards the cost of the car.
This has led to many individuals buying cars when they would not have done so otherwise, thereby adding to the logjam caused by the sheer number of cars in the city as mentioned above.
At the same time, the parents who had moved for school bus to ease the traffic congestion have simply given up the fight as the STPS refuse to serve as school buses. The same committee should now press on educational institutions to acquire the buses for the same as done in other countries, also some institutions in other states.
All it takes is political will and cooperation of the citizens to solve the problem as expansion of the existing lanes is impossible in the city. Therefore, the said parent circles or groups should move the school authority and the state government to make it compulsory to have a public transport system, which will not only ease the traffic congestion, but most importantly ensure the security of the students who have to rush to the school in time and be back home safe and sound.