In the first major step taken against civic officials who collude with contractors to delay the filling of potholes, the civic body will now impose financial penalties on engineers who have not ensured that potholes are filled within five days of being reported through the online pothole tracking system.
This plugs a giant loophole in the system, which is exploited by a nexus of contractors and officials. In the current system, when citizens report a pothole, the local engineer assigns it to a contractor, who has to fill it within 24 hours. No time limit has been specified, however, for the engineer to assign the pothole to the contractor.
Collusion between the contractors and engineers has ensured that the latter assign potholes only when it is convenient for contractors to fill them. The civic body's latest directive is an attempt to break this nexus between engineers and errant contractors.
Hindustan Times conducted a test run of the system last week. Out of 17 complaints we registered on the system, eight potholes remained untouched even after three days, showing that there had been delays in both assigning and filling of potholes.
Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta said: “Such a directive will ensure that our engineers are vigilant about both assigning and getting the pothole filled. The fine will have to be shared by the engineer and the contractor, if there is a delay at both ends.”
According to the new directive, a fine of Rs 1,000 will be imposed per pothole for each day’s delay over the stipulated deadline of five days. It is mandatory for the contractor to fill potholes that have been assigned to them within 24 hours in case of a dry spell, or within a maximum of 48 hours, in case of showers.
Gupta said that each case of such delays will be looked into by the chief engineer of the roads department, who will then decide whether the engineer should be fined or not.
Commenting on the directive, an official of the roads department said: “Right now, if there is a delay in assigning the pothole, no one is accountable. Such a rule will instill a sense of fear in our officials, who have been delaying assigning potholes to help contractors.”