A city on the move has no decent roads yet
Those who were tuned in to the affairs of this city in the late 1980s and early 90s would easily recall a man who answered to the call of Sadashiv S Tinaikar. Smruti Koppikar writes.Updated: Jun 05, 2013, 12:55 IST
Those who were tuned in to the affairs of this city in the late 1980s and early 90s would easily recall a man who answered to the call of Sadashiv S Tinaikar. He, of the short-slight build, raspy voice, moral fibre and indomitable courage, was the municipal commissioner for four-five years from 1986 but occupied public imagination for years after his tenure had ended.
Often called 'Firebrand Tinaikar', his stint was best remembered for two reasons: one, he took on then seemingly invincible Shiv Sena stalwarts like Manohar Joshi and Datta Nalwade if they dared to interfere with the administration; and two, he demonstrated the power and authority of the chair he was in by calling the bluff of cartels that de facto called the shots in the corporation. Tinaikar took on the road construction cartel as a Japanese warrior would have.
Cornered companies in the cartel had no choice except to adhere to civic norms or risk being blacklisted; their pleas to corporators proved useless for Tinaikar would not entertain corporators who spoke on behalf of contractors and companies. "If we can send satellites into space, we can make good roads and provide clean water too," was his favourite refrain. He showed reporters how and where road construction contractors swindled the corporation. A story went around that he would drop in without any official paraphernalia to check on the mix at road construction sites for surprise checks.
Contractors of all specialities heaved a sigh of relief when his tenure ended. Fast forward 23 years. Mumbai is preparing for yet another monsoon with many major roads in various states of repair, other roads in pitiable conditions, potholes that can claim lives of those ride two-wheelers, road construction contracts under the Bombay high court scrutiny, contracts manipulated at low rates which are hiked after securing the work, and so on.
This year's budget has set aside Rs. 2,323 crore for road development but let's parse last year's figures: beyond the budgetary allocation, the BMC set aside in September 2012 a grand figure of Rs. 1,000 crore for road development, nearly three-quarters of which was meant for reconstruction of major and minor roads and nearly Rs70 crore for evening out potholes. The terms 'reconstruction' and 'repair of potholes' say a lot. Why do roads once laid develop such serious problems that they must be reconstructed? Why do they have potholes if they were laid to specifications? Why indeed has the BMC found it so difficult to provide decent roads?
In the battle - or ostensible battle - between the civic administration and road contractors, it is not all that difficult for the administration to pull its weight to have errant contractors fall in line. If Tinaikar could do it then, commissioners can do it now. The setting up of an online system for complaints now tells civic chief Sitaram Kunte how deep the problem is; there was a 50 per cent increase in complaints between 2011 and 2012 and the maximum complaints were about bad/potholed/broken roads, according to an insightful report released by Praja Foundation last month.
And, what should we make of a little nugget in that report about our elected corporators and roads? They, who should make sure that complaints are attended to in ward committee meetings, spoke about roads only to focus on renaming them. Every fifth question was about naming and re-naming roads, the report stated.
Tinaikar passed away in May 2010. His regret remained that Mumbai, the city always on its move, had not yet got the roads it deserved.