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How system profits from keeping roads in a mess

mumbai Updated: Aug 26, 2011 01:04 IST
Kunal Purohit
Kunal Purohit
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

As part of the pre-monsoon spot repairs done to avoid potholes, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) spent around Rs 8.40 lakh reinforcing, among other streets, parts of Road No 32, next to Khalsa College.

But with the first few showers, potholes dotted the entire road. The civic body has now spent some more money, filling up the potholes.

Local resident and activist Nikhil Desai, has kept a close eye on the civic body's work on Road no 32.

"First, contractors get paid for 'preventing' potholes and then, the BMC pays them for filling up the potholes that shouldn't have come about in the first place," he explains.

The city paid a whopping Rs 1,900 crores towards road tax over the past five years. This amount is part of the Rs 5,000 crores that the BMC spent on constructing and maintaining roads over the same period. Yet, in July, there were over 6,000 potholes dotting the city's streets.

With such a massive amount being spent on roadworks, and with contractors quoting half the BMC's estimated project cost, why are the city's roads in such a terrible state? And where is all the money going, wonder harried citizens like Desai.

Experts feel that it's a mix of laxity on part of the civic staff as well a strong nexus between officials and contractors, which ensure that errant contractors get away with shoddy work.

Nandkumar Salvi, retired chief engineer (BMC) and a member of the Roads Monitoring Committee appointed by the Bombay high court said, "Because of corruption, civic officials hardly supervise ongoing work, and contractors influence officials to ensure that specifications aren't followed."

Defending the roads in Dadar, Sanjay Kurhade, assistant municipal commissioner - F-North said, "Potholes shouldn't emerge on a road where spot repairs have happened. However, we had done only the junction of Road 32, and not the entire road. Probably, that's the reason behind the potholes."

Rahul Shewale, chairman of BMC's standing committee conceded that corruption was rife, but promised that things will change.

"We have a slew of measures planned to attack the roots of corruption in road-making."

HT made repeated attempts to reach additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta.

However, he did not respond to calls and SMSes.