Potholes in Mumbai are now a matter of life and death
People are losing their lives because of the potholes and it is no longer funny or even forgivablemumbai Updated: Jul 26, 2017 01:33 IST
Heading from the Pune Mumbai expressway towards town just a couple of weeks ago, I was caught in a traffic jam for hours and just could not keep the appointed time for an important meeting. I was hopping mad at the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation because they had failed to fill up a huge crater on the highway that had opened up again this monsoon with just a couple of downpours. Frequent travellers on that route know exactly where each pothole lies and it is almost amusing to see cars curve their way round those deep pits almost in harmony. But on this day, a car with registration numbers of Madhya Pradesh was navigating the roads and had no idea about that particular crater. When it jumped, braked and tilted on its nose, three cars behind it crashed into each other, bonnets into the boots, and it took some manoeuvring to prise them apart, delaying traffic for hours.
Potholes in and around the metropolis are no longer a joking matter — just in the last week since popular radio jockey Malaishka uploaded a satirical video on the city’s potholes and invited the BMC’s wrath upon her head, two bikers have died — one, a man in the city and the other, a woman biker who was a part of a riding club and was out on the highways when a pothole unseated her and she was crushed by a speeding truck right behind her which could not brake on time or swerve to avoid hitting her.
Last year, the Mumbai Congress had made a big issue of the potholed roads ahead of the civic elections and had hoped the city’s denizens would take note and vote out the Shiv Sena which has been in charge of the city for a quarter of a century. Yet the Shiv Sena was returned to power, despite even its own ally, the BJP, raising the flag over potholed roads that never got filled over the decades.
But, clearly, this is not just the Shiv Sena’s irresponsible administration alone. All around Mumbai, various townships are faced with similar issues and by now it is no longer a secret that potholed roads serve the political masters well with the need to raise tenders every year and all that might follow.
Yet, by no means is it impossible to make our roads as smooth as runways — several years ago, as a rookie reporter in Hyderabad, I was writing on similar issues but in the years since determined governments came to power, I noticed a marked change in not just the roads but also the attitudes of the civic authorities. They have made ample use of technology — both in terms of apps and road laying methods — and actively involved citizens. Whenever a citizen points out a pothole at any place on an app provided by the authorities, the public works department is there within hours and has the road in good shape by the next day. That pothole does not open up for years again. So why is Mumbai lagging so far behind?
Obviously, all that we have heard about certain nexuses might be the reason behind the city being full of potholes with strips of road in between. But now the BMC really takes the cake by attempting to make an example of Malaishka instead of reacting with concern to her spoof. But I am glad to see they have not cowed down the spunky radio jockey. And far from silencing her voice, their tit-for-tat action against her (they fined her for some mosquitoes breeding in her home — as though the BMC was not responsible for fogging the area and thus destroying the breeding grounds), now other voices have risen up against the potholes on the roads — spoofs, stand-up acts, et al. This has not just drawn even more attention to the BMC but also ended up making the authorities look both ridiculous and indifferent to the hardships citizens face on the roads every day.
If it were just about a spoof or two, one could even sit back to enjoy the ding-dong battle the civic authorities are indulging in. But people are losing their lives because of the potholes and it is no longer funny or even forgivable.