The Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the country’s richest civic body, has failed to keep its promise of providing pothole-free roads, claim opposition leaders and locals from across 24 administrative wards. The potholes in and around Mumbai have not only resulted in heavy snarl-ups, but have also claimed several lives. The Sion-Panvel highway alone has seen as many as 87 accidents resulting in 15 people losing their lives since January.
“They ( Shiv Sena) have failed to keep their promise. As always BMC was ill-prepared for the monsoon. The patchwork was shoddy and sub-standard. As a result, almost all the roads that were claimed to be repaired have been washed away and the potholes have re-emerged,” Manoj Kotak, BJP Group Leader in the BMC, told The Sunday Guardian.
BMC received around 343 WhatsApp complaints from the residents of Mumbai in the month of June itself.
“It’s just not the inconvenience but the danger associated with these huge potholes that scares people like me to take the roads,” said a third-year law student in Government Law College.
Smooth road connectivity to the Mumbaikars was one of the major planks on which Shiv Sena contested the BMC elections this year. The residents claim that not only did BMC miss the deadlines to meet its targets, most of the roads repaired were washed away with the onset of the monsoon.
“The roads washed out the moment monsoon arrived. The roads are water-logged with several potholes. I have a back injury and I am forced to sit at home because taking roads as such is a risky affair and with injury, it’s even riskier,” said Aakriti Bhattanagar, who recently suffered a back injury after falling off from a crowded local train in the city.
The opposition has accused the civic body of adopting sub-standard mechanism to fix the roads without giving any consideration to the quality of the material used.
“There is no quality assurance of their patchwork. The materials used aren’t even tested in the laboratory. We have been raising the issue of quality assurance on the floor and will keep opposing all the quick-fix measures of BMC until and unless they come clean on the quality parameter,” Kotak added.
Kotak also claimed that BMC premeditatedly did not allow the annual exercise of pothole tracking to take place in order to hide the “ground realities”.
“There was a deliberate attempt not to allow any tender for pothole tracking this year. They know the data is not in their favour,” claimed Kotak.
Furthermore, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged that the BMC failed to replace asphalt roads with cement-concrete roads and the ones they did were of poor quality. “Places like Mumbai where we see heavy rainfall, cement-concrete road is the best option. But BMC has failed to build uniform c-c roads across the city. Wherever they did, the quality of the required material was so low that the roads got washed away instantly with the arrival of the monsoon,” Nawab Malik told The Sunday Guardian.
Speaking to this newspaper, Yashwant Jadhav, Leader of the House in BMC, refuted allegations of sub-standard work, corruption and deliberate attempt to refrain from revealing the number of potholes in the city.
“All the allegations are baseless. We have done our work and all the repaired roads are intact. We have finished most of the surfacing work and the remaining work will be taken up after October. As for identification of potholes, we are interested in giving smooth roads, not counting potholes,” said Jadhav.
According to reports, the civic body imported 38 tonnes of pothole-fixing material worth Rs70 lakh from Austria and Israel for the resurfacing work. The surfacing work was bifurcated in two phases, Priority I and Priority II. Of the 2,110 works taken up as part of Priority II, work on 882 stretches has not been completed, and will now be taken up in October, after the monsoon.
Despite repeated attempts, the Chief Engineer at the Roads Department, Vinod Chithore and BMC chief Ajoy Mehta remained unavailable for comment.