Where’s the road? Panchkula in the pits
At least 150 potholes in half a kilometre; that too on a road next to the deputy commissioner’s office — this is the ground reality in the city known as Haryana’s Paris.
The entire city is struggling with dilapidated roads. The stretch from Majri Chowk to Bella Vista roundabout — which divides Sectors 1 and 2 in Panchkula — is the worst.
HT on Monday counted 150 potholes on this short, but important, road stretch. It provides entry to the city from the Zirakpur-Kalka highway. Most importantly, it is the preferred road to reach the district courts complex and the mini secretariat, which houses the offices of the deputy commissioner and all top administrative and police officials.
Despite being in proximity to the city’s power centre, the stretch continues to face official apathy. HT found that at least 30 potholes are up to four-to-five-inches deep and quite wide. Traffic comes to a grinding halt as either the vehicles get stuck or have a tough time avoiding these potholes.
Col RP Dhillion (retd), who was travelling with his wife on this stretch, told HT that good governance was nowhere to be seen in Panchkula, despite it being the “de facto” capital of Haryana.
“The administration should at least repair the broken patches if they can’t recarpet the whole road,” he said.
Ramesh Kumar, an auto-rickshaw driver, questioned: “What is the use of running bullet trains in the country if the government can’t even ensure safe roads for us?”
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s district office is also situated along this road stretch. The party had made tall promises before the assembly elections, but has even failed to repair potholes in front of its office, said another commuter.
Rs 5.5 cr approved, but no work yet
This road stretch was last carpeted five years ago. A proposal was mooted last year to recarpet the road starting from Shalimar Mall to Majri Chowk via Bella Vista Chowk. A budget estimate of ₹5.5 crore was also approved. But, no work has begun yet.
When HT visited the municipal corporation (MC) office to enquire about the latest status of the road repair work, no one responsible for this job was present there. Superintending engineer, who heads the department, was on leave. The post of his subordinate — executive engineer — is vacant after Praveen Singla got himself transferred from here.
However, sub-divisional officer (civil engineer) Mander Singh assured HT that patch work will begin on roads in “critical condition” in the next 48 hours.
‘Ego clashes’ take toll on development
At a time when residents are still angry because of the administrative mismanagement during the Dera Sacha Sauda violence in the city and want development works to be carried out full steam, Panchkula does not even have a municipal commissioner. After Ashok Meena’s transfer on September 13, the state government has not appointed his replacement yet.
An official, requesting anonymity, said no one is ready to come here to head the civic body due to the “ego clashes” between the officials and mayor.
Mayor Upinder Kaur Walia and MC chiefs have remained at loggerheads in the past two years. Shaleen Kumar, an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer who earlier headed the civic body, even shot off a letter to the Haryana chief secretary in June this year, alleging that the mayor was threatening him. Talking to HT, the mayor put the entire blame on MC officers besides the Panchkula MLA.
“I have no power to execute the works. It is with the officers,” said Walia. “What can I do if they don’t work? The state government should fix the responsibility, but is sitting silent on this matter.”
Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Kulbhushan Goyal alleged personal grudges between the Mayor and BJP MLA had “ruined” the city.
In search of ‘best pit’ in city
Panchkula Local units of two organisations — Swaraj Abhiyan and Youth4Swaraj — initiated the campaign ‘Mera Gaddhha, Mera Gaurav (My Pothole, My Pride)’ to draw the attention of administrative officials to the pitiable condition of roads in the city.
Residents can send photos of pits in their neighbourhood with the dimensions and location along with their identity to the WhatsApp number 9999993544 till Friday night. “We will confirm the dimensions of the potholes and announce the winner at a public gathering on Sunday,” said Youth4Swaraj district president Harshit. “We will also invite the city mayor and MLA to honour the winner.”
The NGO members are also carrying out artwork, such as drawing smileys, around the pits. The aim is to “wake up” the authorities and alert the commuters. On the first day of the campaign on Sunday, they covered the road dividing Sectors 5 and 9. On Monday, they reached Sector 20.
“It’s time our elected representatives are held accountable to the public,” said Shalini Malviya, a member of Swaraj Abhiyan.