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Chain of silence echoes Thane’s pothole problem

As of Monday, the worst pothole-ridden stretch in Thane is the Majiwada-Manpada stretch with 24 unfilled potholes.

mumbai Updated: Sep 05, 2018 00:49 IST
Megha Pol
Megha Pol
Hindustan Times
potholes,Mumbai,Maharashtra
Potholes on the eastern express highway road near Jupiter Hospital continue to be a source of trouble for commuters. (HT Photo)

On Tuesday morning, approximately 100 Thane residents formed a human chain at the Anandnagar toll plaza on the Eastern Express Highway. Some of them held placards with messages like “NoRoadsNoVotes”, and if you looked at the potholes on the stretch, you could spot some with cut-outs of fish in them (to suggest that the potholes are so big, they could be ponds). All this was part of a protest organised by the Thane Citizen Forum and the aim was to highlight the continuing problem of potholes, which authorities have struggled to contain.

Residents and commuters have been complaining bitterly about the terrible condition of roads ever since the onset of the rainy season this year. Reports have come in on a daily basis of accidents caused by potholes, which have caused injuries in some cases and even cost lives. In Thane, there have so far been no deaths due to potholes. But nearby Kalyan has seen at least five lives lost because of bad road conditions.

As of Monday, the worst pothole-ridden stretch in Thane is the Majiwada-Manpada stretch with 24 unfilled potholes.

“The government is spending the taxpayers’ money, so they should at least ensure that the pothole filling should last for a long time,” said Kasber Augustine, who founded the Thane Citizen Forum two years ago by bringing residential societies in the city under an umbrella organisation. Two weeks ago, the forum drafted an online petition demanding better roads, which was signed by over 10,000 Thane residents.

Citizen activists have been pushing authorities to be more accountable, especially with regard to the state of the roads. Recently, the Road Commuters Forum, which has over 500 members, undertook a campaign on social media demanding authorities fix the potholes. A blinker protest was also held, and the group submitted a memorandum to the chief minister, listing the causes of congestion along with possible solutions. “After the campaign we saw remarkable changes on August 30 and 31, when we could reach home in an hour and half. However since September 1, the situation is the same and we are back to square one,” said Shilpa Bhat, a banker and one of the founders of Road Commuters Forum, who travels to Lower Parel from Ghodbunder every day. It takes her five hours by car.

The human chain that Thane Citizen Forum had created as a silent protest had an impact. Authorities filled the potholes on that patch. However, as Augustine pointed out, it shouldn’t have taken a protest to get the authorities to react. “We have come forward to put positive pressure on the authorities to find permanent solutions to the problem,” Augustine said, adding that the forum plans to meet the guardian minister and the chief minister with their demand that tolls be waived until the condition of the roads improve.

One of the complaints that Thane residents have is that the repair work done by civic bodies is proving to be very temporary. Within days of being fixed, the condition of roads deteriorate and potholes reappear.

Neilson D’mello, 44, said, “We pay tax to the government, but we do not get a single good road to commute. All the roads are full of potholes, especially those near the toll plaza. This potholes lead to heavy traffic in the city. If the authorities do not find a permanent solution to the potholes, we have decided not to vote, not to pay toll and even stage a massive protest march to Mantralaya.”

In addition to the everyday problem of painfully-long commutes, there is the concern that the pothole-ravaged roads make it difficult for emergency services to reach those in need. Dr. Raheesh Ravindran, a rheumatologist at Hiranandani Hospital in Powai and Bethany Hospital in Thane, said, “I am on emergency call several times in a day and have to commute between Mumbai and Thane. Most of the time I get late due to the traffic congestion from Kopri Bridge to toll naka. Once I even called the traffic DCP, when I was stuck for over 45 minutes and had to attend an emergency patient. We only get assurances from the politicians and authorities. However there is no solution to our problems.”

Augustine alleged that the money collected by the authorities isn’t being invested in road maintenance. “The toll operators collect over Rs. 100 crore as toll every year,” said Augustine. “However none of the money is used in maintenance of the roads. We will take the issue to the state and even the central government and will not stop unless we get better roads.”

First Published: Sep 05, 2018 00:48 IST