Shoddy work, inadequate inspection, no check and no proper reinstatement of footpaths are some of the reasons why the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to transfer the job of maintaining footpaths to the civic roads department instead of ward-level officials.
Aseem Gupta, additional municipal commissioner, conceded: "Because of poor maintenance the work will be taken up by the roads department. We have planned to make footpaths pedestrian-friendly. We will start with footpaths adjacent to all major roads, and will take up others later." Though the civic body has spent over Rs 131 crore in the last five years on improving Mumbai's pavements, most footpaths are in bad shape.
Civil work contractors (CWC) appointed by the BMC are expected to take care of every footpath at the ward level. They are supposed to perform regular maintenance tasks, lay new paver blocks, and repair or reinstate the footpaths that are dug up by various utilities to rectify faults. The work is carried out under the supervision of the local ward assistant engineer (maintenance). This post has been created for regular maintenance of all kinds of engineering works, and the engineer is responsible for supervision of storm water drains, garbage collection or to check illegal constructions in the ward as well.
"There were no proper checks by the assistant engineers though they have been paid by the civic body. Up to 50-60% of the budgeted money goes in corruption," said Utsal Karani, a Juhu resident and honorary secretary of the Janhit Manch, an NGO.
The widespread use of paver blocks since 1999-2000 only caused more problems. Poorly laid, the blocks come off easily or create an uneven surface, with pedestrians facing the risk of twisting an ankle, or worse.
Nandkumar Salvi, a member of the road-monitoring committee appointed by the high court, feels that footpaths are poorly maintained because of lack of supervision. "The condition of footpaths is terrible. Utility agencies are the main cause. They dig up footpaths to lay cables and leave without reinstating them properly."
He also said that though they decided to switch over responsibility, the civic officials should have the will to take corrective measures. "If they don't have the will to work for the betterment of the city, nothing is going to change," he said.