Chandigarh: City for 500,000 now has 800,000 vehicles

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh: When French architect Le Corbusier designed the modern city of Chandigarh in the 1950s, it was supposed to cater to a maximum population of 500,000 residents. Six decades on, this twin capital is still the ‘City Beautiful’, but houses almost 1.2 million people with 800,000 registered vehicles and an estimated 100,000 driving through every day.

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In the 2001 Census, the population stood at 900,914.

With urban planning for Chandigarh not keeping pace with the growth of vehicles in the 114 square km city, a union territory which is also the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana states, congestion, chaos and accidents have become the order of the day.

Officials at the Registering and Licensing Authority (RLA) say that over 125 vehicles are added to the city’s roads every day. And up to 40 percent of them are cars and other four-wheelers.

“Our workload has increased many times in recent years. Despite more windows for registration of vehicles, the rush is never-ending,” an RLA official told IANS.

In 2010, 45,481 vehicles were registered in the city, the highest number registered in a single year. The figure was much less in previous years, 37,967 (2009), 33,577 (2008), 33,256 (2007), 33,777 (2006) and 29,697 (2005).

“Normally one registration series (9,999 numbers) gets over in three-four months. However, the CH-01-AE series got over in just one month in December,” the RLA official said.

Besides the over 786,000 vehicles registered in Chandigarh so far, traffic officials of the Chandigarh police say that the city gets a floating population of nearly 100,000 vehicles from adjoining suburbs of Panchkula (Haryana) and Mohali (Punjab). In addition, scores of vehicles come from adjoining states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

“The ever-increasing number of cars and other vehicles is leading to a lot of chaos on the roads, parking lots and even in residential areas. It seems that the city’s planners are just sleeping. No one is bothered about managing things now. Everything will just explode one day,” Sanjiv Tewari, a retired senior officer of Panjab University, told IANS.

In a majority of the city’s parking lots, including the paid parking zones, finding space to park a car leaves one harassed. Getting in and out of parking areas is an obstacle too with haphazardly parked vehicles.

“People many times park their vehicles wrongly. This leads to chaos and even fights. If we tell them to park properly, they argue with us and don’t listen,” said Swaran Singh, who mans a parking lot in Sector 35.

Chandigarh residents don’t have a craze for cars and other vehicles alone. They are equally crazy about car registration numbers. VIP registration numbers in Chandigarh go for hefty prices.

In recent years, the number ‘0001’ in different registration series has been auctioned at prices ranging from Rs.3 lakh to Rs.10 lakh.

“People here buy VIP numbers like 0001 and others at prices at which you can buy a small or even a mid-segment and a luxury car. This is crazy,” said entrepreneur Harman Singh.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])