If ever there was a case study on how NOT to spend money to improve infrastructure, MCD could be cited as the best (?) example. In the last two years, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) — with the largest network of roads under its jurisdiction — could have re-laid 4,500km of roads.
However, it is still to put to use the Rs 215cr it collected from various service utilities as digging charges and from money earmarked for municipal councillors. But thanks to crores lying unused in MCD treasury, the Capital’s roads have become a patchwork of potholes and cave-ins and unfinished roads are the norm.
On an average, about Rs 5 lakh is needed to construct one km stretch of road. In 2009-10, service providers deposited Rs 103.38cr with the MCD as charges for digging the civic agency’s roads. Out of this, it has still not been able to use Rs 56.27cr for reconstructing dug-up stretches. Not just this, last year, MCD received Rs 90.66cr. But out of this, it managed to spend only Rs 40.88cr for constructing roads.
To worsen matters, close to 20% municipal councillors have still not spent funds earmarked for constructing new roads.
Each MCD councillor gets R50lakh to spend in his/her area for road works. But close to Rs 108crore is yet to be booked by them. This year, they only have three months to spend this amount, failing which, it will simply lapse. Meanwhile, it is the average Delhi resident who has to bear the brunt of bad roads. Residents of every residential colony in the city have harrowing tales to narrate. The Delhi traffic police have also identified more than 100 spots, which are prone to accidents due to the pathetic condition of roads.
A number of stretches were dug up in the course of restoration. But two years later, these are yet to be reconstructed.
These include: roads in areas such as East of Kailash, Green Park, Kalkaji, Panchsheel, Defence Colony, Rohini, Okhla and many others.
MCD, on the other hand, is ready with a string of excuses in this regard. “The money that we had collected from service providers is not sufficient. The service providers only deposit money for the small patches that they dig up, but we have to restore the entire road, as patchwork doesn’t stay for long. We need more funds to restore all the roads,” said Yogender Chandolia, chairman of MCD Standing Committee.
Bureaucratic hurdles are another reason why even after having funds, the civic agency is unable to put it to use. “Files related to restoration works keep moving from one table to another, resulting in delays. There are many roads for which even after getting the funds sanctioned, we were unable to start work,” said Jagdish Mamgain, chairman of MCD Works committee.
Meanwhile, a few months ago, the Delhi government had also scrapped the Rs 120 cr loan it had given MCD, claiming that the civic body had not been repairing city roads, causing a lot of inconvenience to the public.
Rajni Abbi, Delhi mayor
Bureaucratic hurdles delay road tenders
The money collected for road reconstruction has not been used. You have complained about paucity of funds, but funds are lying unused. How is the unused money being accounted for?
Due to bureaucratic hurdles, we are sometimes unable to call tenders for such projects even when funds are available. At the same time, many roads which had been dug up get constructed by using councillors’ funds or under some other head. Hence, it may appear that money has not been spent but roads are being remade in reality.
Why is there no centralised helpline number where commuters can file a complaint about poor roads?
We are looking into the possibilities of having such a number.
There are a number of roads that have not been laid in the past 5-10 years. What is being done about a scheme related to this?
This scheme had been given anticipatory approval by me but funding is a huge problem.
Why isn’t more stringent action taken against defaulting contractors so that they don’t lay such poor quality roads?
This is something that needs to be thrashed out by the executive wing. I am of the view that once debarred, a contractor should not be allotted any work.