Encroachment of roads and pavements by vendors in the town is a problem that is increasing day by day due to lackadaisical attitude of the authorities concerned.
Locals face huge inconvenience commuting on roads as vendors have put up makeshift stalls even in the narrowest of roads. It is difficult to walk in the crowded marketplaces like Clock Tower, Kotwali Bazaar, Jalandhar road, Phagwara Chowk, Sutehri Road, Krishna Nagar and bus stand chowk during busy hours as traffic remains jammed on these routes.
Besides encroachments, wrong parking in the congested markets adds to the woes of pedestrians. Heavy traffic is banned in the town during the day hours but many bus and truck operators manage to hoodwink the police, putting lives to risk and adding to traffic snarls.
On Sundays, despite a holiday, situation is no better in the bus stand and Clock Tower area as vendors erect their stalls. The encroachments often lead to accidents and brawls. Situation becomes uglier during the festival season when the MC officials and traffic police give a longer arm to shopkeepers and vendors. "It is earning time for them (shopkeepers)," is what the authorities say when the problem is pointed out to them.
"Municipal authorities are hand in glove with the encroachers as without their will, no one can dare occupy public land," said Rajesh Walia, a chemist.
"Wrong parking and the encroachment of footpaths is a menace. With every passing day, roads are shrinking and vendors are expanding their stalls. It's so difficult to walk in the middle of the road in the maddening traffic. The anti-encroachment drives carried out once in blue moon is nothing but eyewash," said Chandan Kumar, a businessman.
Public Anti-Corruption Board of India chairman Sanjeev Walia demanded a ban on the entry of heavy vehicles in the city. "Recently, a young PCR employee was crushed under a truck on Afghan road.
Violators must not be spared if the administration really wants to impose discipline," he said.
Contrary to public accusation that the traffic police do not do much, traffic in-charge inspector Gurjitpal Singh says the police are always on the job but the public do not cooperate. "We keep challaning violators and even hold traffic awareness seminars. Ultimately, it is the people who would have to understand that discipline on the road helps all," he added.
MC commissioner Sukhwinder Pal Singh Marar, who has recently joined here after the upgrade of the municipal council to a corporation, said removing temporary encroachments was foremost on his agenda to streamline traffic. "I would first call representatives of various shopkeeper associations to seek their co-operation in removing encroachments. If need be, we will carry out an anti-encroachment drive with the help of police," said Marar. "Absence of parking lots is a major hurdle in smooth flow of vehicular traffic. We will discuss this matter with the deputy commissioner in the next meeting," he added.