Enter Kalka from Himachal Pradesh (HP), and you will be greeted by a several feet high garbage dump, rising from the stream downhill to the road on top. This is not all, the narrow road from Kali Mata temple till the end of the Kalka market remains jammed throughout the day.
A drive across 500 metres will take you 50 minutes. This traffic bottleneck and the garbage glut are the two major problems faced by Kalka, which falls under the Panchkula Municipal Corporation (MC) and has two councillors and an MLA to safeguard its interests.
Home to one of the oldest railway stations in the country and the gateway to Shimla, journey through Kalka has always been a nightmare for tourists due to congestion in the Kalka market.
The Kalka railway station is the terminus of the broad gauge Delhi–Kalka railway line and the starting point of narrow gauge Kalka–Shimla railway line started by the Britishers in 1903. Kalka was part of the erstwhile princely state of Patiala but was acquired by the British in1846 and included in the Shimla district. It was transferred to Ambala district in 1899. Finally in 1967, Kalka tehsil was carved out of Naraingarh.
Though the construction of the Pinjore bypass in 2013 has come as a major relief for tourists and travellers alike, the locals continue to suffer the painful journey through this 1-km-long market. So do the passengers of Haryana Roadways and Himachal Roadways, which have made it mandatory for their buses to pass through Kalka.
Before the bypass, this road used to witness traffic jams that would stretch over several kilometres.
BANE OF CONGESTION
Shops in Kalka market open onto highways, leaving little space for the heavy volume of traffic. The trucks which have to go to Pinjore, Baddi or Nalagarh also take this route as they don’t have any other alternative.
In 2009, a demolition drive was carried out to remove the encroachments following orders from the apex court but seven years on, the problem is far from being solved and the encoachments have reappeared.
Speak to shopkeepers either in the main Kalka market or at the Gandhi Chowk, and they tell you the traffic jam is their biggest bother.
The police have played a dubious role in the congestion story. Despite the fact that the office of Kalka Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) is part of the market, it’s almost impossible to find a policeman to manage the traffic. ACP Kalka Rajesh Kumar, however, claims that traffic cops have been deputed at Gandhi Chowk and on the border with Himachal Pradesh. But when asked why they remain missing, he said, “There is a market and jams do happen. The cops must have gone for lunch when you checked. But I myself make rounds of the area and we help in decongestion.”
Poor sanitation is another bugbear of Kalka. You can spot heaps of trash everywhere, be it at the Kalka bus stand or on the Kalka bridge. People dump garbage where they please despite the board on the road asking people to keep the city clean.
Even the street leading to the house of senior deputy mayor SS Nanda is lined with garbage though Nanda claims this happens only on Sunday. “There are only 41 sanitation workers for the entire township, which are too less. We need at least 100 workers for this place,” says Nanda.
Kalka has narrow streets. It is difficult to collect garbage from house to house, so there are multiple pickup points where garbage is collected and then lifted. But they have turned into permanent deposits of garbage.
Public toilets in the township too are in a dismal state. “A number of public toilets were constructed in Kalka but no water was provided. It created a terrible mess. In anger, the public demolished a toilet close to the SDM office. Now, many of such toilets have been closed,” Nanda recounted.
Kala is also bereft of any green spaces or parks. Even today, not all areas of this township have sewerage connection.
LAL DORA WOES
The inclusion of Kalka in the purview of the Municipal Corporation had raised many expectations among the people, but the MC is yet to fulfil these. The corporation does not spend a single rupee in areas which are beyond the Lal Dora as it considers these constructions illegal. But with the population exploding, locals are building in areas outside the Lal Dora, leading to the clamour for extending its limits.
Tipra colony, Shammi colony, Parade Mohalla, Tagra, Ram Nagar and Bharat Nagar are among the colonies that fall outside the Lal Dora. There is no provision for streets, roads and even streetlights in these areas.
LAW AND ORDER
The recent spate of thefts in various shops has generated fear among shopkeepers in the Kalka market. Recently, three shops were targeted in one night at Gandhi Chowk. Then a person who entered a hotel as a guest fled with six LED televisions in a hotel.
“We have increased the patrolling during night. We are working hard to crack these cases,” said Kalka Station House Officer Sub Inspector Surjeet Singh.
Last year, a jeweller’s son was murdered and a sum of Rs 50 lakh looted on the night of July 4. Two men broke into a shop and rammed the jeweller’s son sleeping inside with an iron rod 11 times. The incident sent shock waves among the business community. Though later the police cracked the case, the general sentiment is that the police presence in Kalka is far too less for the area under supervision.
PRONE TO ACCIDENTS
Several areas in Kalka are regarded among the most accident prone sites in the district. There is a blind turn near the Kali Mata temple here, which is the cause of many an accident. Auto-rickshaws parked outside the gate of the Kalka bus stand also lead to chaos and mishaps. This forces passengers to wait for buses on the Panchkula-Shimla highway outside the bus stand.
Seeing the mess at the entry and exit points of the bus stand, the police have recommended a clean-up and earth-filling on both sides of the road.