The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Tuesday told the Bombay high court that it will make all roads in the city “pothole-free” by October 31.
But the assurance failed to impress activists who say the ground reality won’t change unless senior civic officials are held accountable for delays.
Senior advocate Anil Sakhre, representing BMC, told HC that the corporation was already carrying out road repair work, taking advantage of the current dry spell and will also rope in IIT-Bombay and other expert bodies to come up with a preventive plan by February next year to ensure that the city doesn’t face the problem of waterlogging and potholes during the next monsoon.
A bench of Justices Shantanu Kemkar and MS Karnik also directed the MMRDA and PWD to coordinate with the BMC and ensure that the Eastern Express Highway and other arterial roads under their jurisdiction are also repaired by October 31.
The directions came while the bench was hearing a suo moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the poor condition of roads in Mumbai and the BMC’s failure to prevent and repair potholes every monsoon.
On Monday, the court directed BMC to not just rely on the road repair material used by its contractors, but to procure “good material and seek the help of experts like IIT, Central Road Research Institute and the Indian Road Congress”. HC is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on December 8 this year.
The bench also suggested that the corporation consult the civic authorities of “other states in the country that receive heavy rainfall.”“Gather information from other states which witness heavy rains and ask them what material and methods they use for road repair and maintenance,” the bench said adding that the corporation must keep its word on the self-imposed October 31 deadline for it will not be granted any extension or leniency henceforth.“The stakeholders must ensure that the roads are repaired and that all the previous orders of the court on the issue are complied with. We will not allow the BMC or the state to make a general statement or to seek more time now,” the bench said.
The bench also reminded the corporation of Sakhre’s jibe at the last hearing. While reacting to another bench’s observation that driving on pothole-ridden roads leads to backache, Sakhre had said the roads were maintained well and the judge might have developed a backache due to poor suspension in his car.
“The concept of setting deadlines should be looked at carefully. In a city like Mumbai, where potholes appear even after they have been filled, the repair process should be continuous. The material used for filling potholes currently is of poor quality. Roads in Andheri have been repaired around 10 times now. The civic body is just fooling citizens and the HC by setting deadlines,” said James John, an activist with AGNI.
“Since Mumbai has been facing the problem of potholes for years now, it is time a senior official is held accountable. Unless, we set an example, the problem will just persist. The day accountability is fixed on one individual, the system will see much better results,” said Milind Mhaske, a project co-ordinator with Praja Foundation.
Corporators too had a lot to say on the latest development. Pravin Chheda, a Congress corporator, said, “By saying such things in front of the court, they (BMC) are doing nothing but fooling them. These are false promises. Before this also, the civic body had set 5-7 deadlines. What happened to those?”
Sandeep Deshpande, MNS corporator said, “They (BMC) should learn to respect the HC if not the citizens and corporators. If this is not done, we will bring the commissioner to Mumbai streets and make him hold a sign board that he is responsible for the city’s pothole mess.”