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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Panels’ suggestions on road conditions put on back-burner

Poorvi Kulkarni, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, August 01, 2013
First Published: 08:42 IST(1/8/2013) | Last Updated: 08:53 IST(1/8/2013)

The two committees, one appointed by the state on recommendation of the high court and the other directly by the court, had given key long term suggestions to improve the road conditions in Mumbai.

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These included establishing a strong penalty system on contractors, imposing mandatory conditions of site testing of materials, sending roads department staff for specialised training and also taking steps to break the cartel of contractors.

But, many of these have been stuck at the planning stage, delayed due to bureaucratic red tape or their implementation has been thwarted by the contractor-official-politician nexus that runs deep in the city's road contracts.

“The 2006 road monitoring committee reports had mentioned the control that a cartel of contractors had in bagging road contracts. But, there was no action to ensure that such corrupt practises end,” said Nandkumar Salvi, former civic roads engineer who was a member of the HC-appointed panel.

In 2011, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had also issued directions to the Brihanmumbai Municipa Corporation (BMC) to make systemic improvements to better the roads. But, lack of administrative will ensured that few of these were implemented.

“All the long-term recommendations that could be there are in place, but what has been seriously lacking is their implementation,” said NV Merani who chaired the state-appointed Standing Technical Advisory Committee that came out with a report in 2004 with 79 detailed recommendations.

However, experts felt that intervention from the high court was the only way to ensure that the civic officials follow norms

“When the road monitoring committee was functional for a year, improvements were noted in the way work was carried out, ”said Sudhir Badami, an activist and member of the 2006 HC-appointed panel.

Badami said there was a need for such committees of citizens and activists to be permanently set by the high court so that norms pertaining to quality and technique in road work are followed.

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