The long-winding serpentine queues of cars stranded for hours or moving at a snail’s pace on the Manali-Rohtang highway over the past one week vividly demonstrate a holiday gone kaput. Himachal Pradesh, a hot tourist destination for vacationers looking for a joyous escape from the heat in its cool climes, has again proved to be ill prepared for the rush. Over the past few years, the hill state has been becoming a pain — both for the holidaymaker and the locals. The facilities have failed to keep pace with the demand. A couple of years ago, it was Shimla’s water scarcity that proved a damp squib, squeezing the fun out of the city and holidaymakers. This time, it is the collapse of the road system around Manali due to the ripple effect of droves of people revving up their car engines and driving to hill stations. The ever-widening highways have fallen short of the ever-growing population and its appetite to acquire vehicles and its need to take a break from the humdrum of life.
The difficulties and limitations of roads on a mountainous terrain only compound the situation as roads remain clogged on both sides. Taking a U-turn for home, which suddenly looks more inviting, is not an option. The scene is a sure-shot recipe for short tempers. With restricted resources at hand — just whatever little food, water and medicine that you may have stored in your vehicle — the holiday mood soon gives way to gloom, leading to snarls and flare-ups. And, with little means to know how much more time one is likely to be stranded, there are hotel reservations and firmed up sightseeing plans and adventure trips to contend with. Equally asphyxiated in this clogged scenario are the locals, deprived as they are of the use of roads for everyday affairs and tourism businesses.
The HP Government needs to find a way out of this jam. On-hand traffic management or making the Rohtang road one-way have not been enough to handle the peak load. Perhaps, it is time to think of a centralised regulation of vehicles at the entry points to the state on the highways.