If the civic body continues to accept low quotations for road work, can it have and implement a tough, foolproof system to check the quality of material and work techniques used by the same body of contractors?
Interestingly, such a system does exist, but just on the face of it.
A closer look into the existing quality testing and work supervision mechanisms of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) shows how these systems are manipulated from time to time and the loopholes are exploited by the contractors' lobby to get away with poor and shoddy work.
Last month, the Bombay high court, while taking suo motu notice of bad state of roads, sought responses on six pertinent issues from authorities, including the steps taken for checking technology, materials used, and the supervision carried out by officials.
While the civic body has systems for both quality testing and supervision of works in place, they are brought to naught as the norms are rarely followed.
For instance, the entire purpose of quality testing of material at the municipal laboratory is lost, as the contractors get away with trivial fines while citizens are left to bear the brunt of the deteriorating state of roads.
Former BMC officials claimed links between top level civic bureaucrats and the contractors were to be blamed. “Penalties are not imposed with the necessary rigour and frequency and even if they are imposed, they are so lenient that that it barely acts as a deterrent,” said DM Sukhtankar, former municipal commissioner.
Also the supervision process by the engineering staff is rendered ineffective as a sub-engineer in charge of a site has no direct power to slap fines on contractors for carrying out a shoddy job.
“The engineering staff of the BMC is demoralised as the contractors often do not allow them to do their job,” said Nandkumar Salvi, former civic engineer in the roads department and member of the 2006 high court-appointed road monitoring committee.