Sargun Shukla, a 2012 Punjab cadre IPS officer became first female Senior Superintendent of Police to manage Srinagar’s traffic. In a conversation with Saima Bhat, the young officer charts out plan to de-congest the city roads
Kashmir Life (KL): For the first time Srinagar’s movement is being managed by a female officer. It is your first such posting too?
Sargun Shukla (SS): There are many female officers in police. When this opportunity came I was more than happy.
Our DGP wanted to bring more women in the traffic because we have direct interface with the public.
That is why we have women as SSP traffic Srinagar, Jammu, and Jammu rural.
It is a challenging role as everything here is in the developmental stage. Many projects are still underway, which means I don’t have a road network.
Without a proper road network in place, I am trying to manage traffic, so it is a big challenge.
We keep on trying to keep track with other departments for which divisional commissioner is cooperating with us and giving us full support.
KL: It is a literal mess on Srinagar roads. How are you going to manage it?
SS: In traffic management, the cooperation of departments like R&B, SMC, PDD, sanitation, ERA is necessary.
I am here for just a month, but I am proud that I could make certain things possible with the help of other departments, especially civil authorities. They gave me an alternative for unsafe Mehjoor Nagar Bridge in just two week, which is a record.
In just two days of my request I got 170 personnel from police to manage traffic in Srinagar. Right now they are undergoing two months training. Another 200 personnels will be added in the coming days, before durbar move.
KL: You once said lack of civic sense among people causes traffic mess in Srinagar. Is it the case?
SS: I don’t blame people for the mess. I accept all their complaints and appreciations with open mind.
People believe I have the power to remove vendors who occupy streets, but I don’t. However, illegal parking and overloading comes under my domain. You must have noticed the change since last one month as we are reclaiming roads from violators.
KL: How many traffic violations are recorded in Srinagar daily?
SS: Every day we issue around 500 challans. This is the magnitude of violations in Srinagar city.
KL: Are public transport vehicles like sumos, buses, autos etc. above law? Is it because of hafta that they pay to traffic cops?
SS: This perception is there but the situation on ground is not that bad. Challans are issued as per the Motor Vehicles Act.
It is not like, if you don’t have money to pay fine, then give a minimum amount and leave. We are tackling the menace of corruption on priority basis. But it will take some time.
KL: Why all your efforts are centered around Lal Chowk only. Why nobody bothers to regulate traffic in Old City, or other parts of Srinagar?
SS: That is not true. Last week we have put our personnels at Khanyar, Hawal, Hazratbal, Nishat, Soura etc. which we consider as priority points. But yes there is menace of illegal parking which we are trying to remove. Hopefully, once the additional personnels arrive, we can manage traffic better.
KL: Does that mean we have a shortage of manpower?
SS: Yes there is dearth of manpower. Presently we have 450 personnels only. An additional 170 people are on its way.
KL: Few years back public transport vehicle drivers and conductors were asked to wear uniforms. But the idea was not followed properly?
SS: The idea has not died. But problem lies in the uniforms itself as it doesn’t include sweaters or jackets, which is essential in a place like Kashmir. I have seen drivers using colourful jackets over their uniforms.
But if we find somebody without uniform we will definitely fine him. A driver must wear uniform and shoes; nobody is allowed to drive in slippers. And a driver must wear seat belts and carry necessary documents.
KL: There are reserved seats for women, disabled and elderly in public buses. There is even provision of discount for students. But on ground its entirely different situation?
SS: I have given instructions to every traffic cop that if somebody is denied his/her right, take him to task.
But denying a woman, disabled, or an elderly person his right reflects our societal values.
If you come across such a violation, please don’t fight with the bus driver or conductor, instead, lodge a complaint with the traffic cop. If he doesn’t act, then call me directly and I will look into the matter.
KL: Did you meet public transporters lately? What are their concerns?
SS: We had a meeting where we talked about all sorts of issues and concerns. They had sought 45 days time to implement all rules strictly.
I have told them to introduce gulabi (pink) seats so that they look different from a distance. We want to introduce a number of new things but everything takes time.
We are trying to digitalise all your offenses with your license.
We are trying to get this law passed that if any driver has more than three offenses then his/her license will get canceled for at least six months. So let’s hope I get full tenure so that everything is done.
KL: Whenever Durbar moves from Jammu to Srinagar we see lots of activity happening in Lal Chowk on traffic management front. But it dies down once the shift is complete. Why not make it a continuous process?
SS: During Darbar move we get special personnels from different districts to manage traffic in Srinagar city. But once the process is over, these additional personnels go back to their original postings. Our DGP is trying to get additional forces so that traffic is managed properly in Srinagar.
We will be getting more inspectors, constables, both men and women, that too an educated lot whose selection will be done online. I am really looking forward to have them onboard.
KL: Why a VIP’s movement is given priority while an ambulance is left at God’s mercy during a traffic jam?
SS: If we can clear roads for a VIP’s movement we can do the same for an ambulance as well. But we need to know beforehand that an ambulance is coming our way. For that purpose we have given toll free number (18001807091). Give us a call before an ambulance leaves hospital. We just need five minutes to manage a particular corridor for ambulance.
However entire city does not come under ‘choke zone’ like Rambagh Bridge or Jahangir chowk, Batamaloo.
Ideally we should have yellow corridors, but as we all know we don’t have enough roads for that.
KL: Being one of the youngest SSP’s to be posted in Srinagar, are you planning to connect with youngsters for better management of traffic?
SS: A group of local boys have started Kashmir Road Safety Foundation, with an aim to inculcate road safety values.
These boys are our friends as they act like messengers of road safety. There are clubs in different colleges where students participate. When I was a college student, I too was part of one such club where we were tasked to regulate the traffic for one week.