Hospital, potholes, barbeques: Navigating the Khayam Chowk abyss

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Srinagar: The famed food lane since the early 1990s, Khayam Chowk in Srinagar kicks back to life every evening as dozens of shops extend onto the street, fanning barbecues.

Merely 2.4 kilometers from the city center, Khayam Chowk buzzes with several shops, restaurants, offices, and a major private hospital premises.

Looking beyond the barbeque stalls, however, becomes tougher amid the perpetual dust. The ever-narrowing lane gets crowded with vehicles, pedestrians, and street vendors — about everything on the broken, ignored street, says one of the local shopkeepers. “The area has been ignored by successive governments in terms of development.”

Showkat Ahmad, 30, who works at Rafiq Cafe, a local eatery, says that he has been in the area for the last 40 years. “The road used to be good,” he says, “but since the Smart City Project started, the common people and shopkeepers have been facing problems.”

“One department started construction of the road and the other department started digging up the road [from the other end],” he adds. “We don’t know what is happening; what the government actually wants to do here.”

Khayam market
Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

Smart City Mission was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) aiming for urban renewal and retrofitting of 100 cities to provide core infrastructure, give a decent quality of life to their citizens, and apply smart solutions to improve services and infrastructure.

Under ‘Smart City Mission’, projects have eight themes including Jhelum Water Front Development and Water Transport, Urban Mobility Street and Intersection Development, City Beautification and Urban Art, Heritage Conservation and Downtown Renewal, Central Business District Upgradation, and Dal Lake Front Conservation, Shalimar.

Khayam Chowk Road links several important areas of Srinagar, including Rainawara, Munawarabad, Khanyar, and Lal Chowk.

The continuous traffic jam from Dal Gate, where the construction of the fallen bridge stares into oblivion, further adds to the misery on the route.

Vijay Kumar Bidhuri, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, told reporters that the Smart City project is going well with each passing day. And the Eid celebrations pushed it a bit far. “We are expecting that project to be completed by 21 July,” he said, adding that the process of macadamization of Khayam Chowk will be completed soon.

Mohd Haneef, a 50-year-old auto-rickshaw driver, said: “The vehicles are always coming from every side of the area but, unfortunately, the road is not prepared well. This market is always open late at night; Khyber Hospital is here. The patients are suffering because of this traffic jam.”

Farooq Ahmad Mir, 65, president of the Al-Noor Traders Association, told The Kashmir Walla that he has been working in the locality for 30 years.

“The administration has been digging up the drains for the last many years; though some drains were made everything failed,” he said. “If the government does not react, the market will lose the customers.”

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