Four years ago, in May 2015, the Hon’ble High Court of Himachal Pradesh had directed the state government not to register any vehicle in Shimla without the buyer submitting proof of parking space available to him within the town. The directions were specifically issued for vehicles intended to be plied within the municipal limits of Shimla. The move was objected to control the addition of new vehicles on the roads and relieve the city of traffic congestion.
Four years back when the rules were made stringent there were 80,000 registered vehicles and the number is reportedly now swelled to more than 1,12,000. Perhaps the density of vehicles in Shimla town viz-a-viz population may have become one of the highest in the country today, hints an unconfirmed media report. Against a total population of about 2.5 lac, Shimla town already has more than 1,12,000 registered vehicles besides the floating population of tourist vehicles during vacations adding to the congestion during summers and winters.
Point to ponder is that if post the High court advisory not many additional parking spaces were created (At least not for 32000 additional vehicles), then how so many new vehicles could get registered in Shimla city. As per the stringently framed new registration rules, a buyer residing within city limits will have to submit proof of parking, and then the same would be physically verified by the local police.
Talking about porous status of these rules, a cab operator explained that in case one does not own a parking space, then he needs to enter into a parking contract with a ‘paid parking lot’ nearby. Besides the contract agreement one needs to obtain a parking payment fee receipt and certificate from the parking lot operator as proof. If one wants to park the new vehicle the normal parking charges per annum are around Rs.25, 000 for a cityite, he added. ”However in case someone only needs a certificate and receipts of parking then the charges are about Rs.10, 000” he added. This proof is then verified through the authorities, which too is managed by the parking lot operator, he explains.
He said many of the new vehicle buyers (residing in Shimla city) obtain the certificate only to complete the formality under the norm and later park it on the road sides. This facilitation has become a source of hefty income for the parking lot owners, he claimed. Hilariously adding another fact, that, the contract between parking owner and buyer is for a period of only 1 year. Yet the registration authorities consider it enough proof of parking for new vehicle registration, he says.
He further tells that against a parking space for ‘X’ vehicle capacity, the parking lot owners usually certify for 5 times the capacity. For a 10-car parking space, they may issue certificates for up to 50 cars, which explains the unscientific increase in number of vehicles on city roads.
Another factor for residents of Shimla who have roots in rural areas is using rural addresses for registration. Since rules for vehicle registration in rural are not as stringent, the process becomes easier. He tells that there have been cases wherein the declared parking spaces are not even motor able. “All one needs to do is ‘Photoshop’ the vehicle as if it is parked in the front of the rural address in the photo to be submitted to the concerned authority, he sums up.
As per norms the parking space declared by the applicant needs to be physically verified through the local police, before registration. But yet the claim might not be accurate. Or what can explain the increasing number of vehicles parked on roadsides year on year. Barring the circular road, all the other roads in city are bursting to the sewn with vehicles parked on both the sides.
Not surprisingly, the city roads have turned into parking spaces alone leaving little space for driving, courtesy ‘unscientific monitoring’ by the authorities. Not only yellow lines, white lines on roads are the new norms for using the space for parking. And what to speak of the blind curves which often lead to freak accidents.