BY MEERA AHUJA
Having a car- free day in the City Beautiful is a good idea.
It brings nostalgic memories of leisurely walks with friends- chatting and eating bhuttas (corn), the mad cycle races and walking to the Rose Garden or the Sukhna Lake for a picnic with family, ice cream at Yankee Doodles and meal at Mehfil or Ghazal in Sector 17.
Judges at the district courts in Sector 43 here must be commended for taking the lead on March 1 by travelling to work in cycles,buses and auto-rickshaws.
But in practical terms, the idea may not be all that feasible as there is not a strong and reliable public transport system in Chandigarh. The routes of the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) do not cover all the sectors and one has to invariably take two or three buses to reach the destination. This is not only time-consuming but also expensive. The autos fleece the customers openly and brazenly as they do not use the electronic fare meters and demand exorbitant rates. Also the Jugnoos are not reliable as they follow the GPS right from booking to generating the bill and it is sad but true that Google GPS does not work in all the areas especially in Sectors like 50 and 51 which fall in the vicinity of the Burail Jail.The Jugnoo drivers refuse to accept rides citing mismatch of location on the GPS and they behave rudely with the customers several times. And the Ola and Uber cabs also follow the GPS and sometimes the drivers are very rude. Also there are issues involving plying of autos between Chandigarh and Mohali (in Punjab) and Panchkula (in Haryana).
It is being said that the Chandigarh Administration will provide extra bus services which is commendable but at least the powers that be should ensure that buses ply frequently and most of the areas are covered. Also the Administration must take strict action against the auto drivers and ensure that they use electronic fare meters. Only then will the concept of having a car-free day be attractive to the citizens.
The Administration also needs to ensure the safety of the public by cleaning up the sidewalks/ footpaths which have either been encroached upon or run over by weeds especially Congress grass. It must be ensured that street lighting is adequate and the public need not fear chain snatchers or be harassed by beggars.
Subway that connects Sectors 17 and 22 needs to be cleaned up and made safe.
After all not everyone is fortunate enough to stay in sectors 7, 11, 16, 19 and has office in sectors 1, 3, 9 or 17.
Humans are resistant to change but if the day goes well and everyone enjoys it, I am sure we will succeed in making this day a permanent feature.