The ruling Maharashtra BJP had promised pothole-free Mumbai. The tenure of the Fadnavis government is going to expire soon but the city is yet to be free from potholes and Mumbai is still in mess. The Maharashtra Assembly elections are scheduled to happen in October this year.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) started repair work in October 2018 on 1,378 roads of the city. But by May 31, BMC could repair only 880 roads. Repair work on remaining 500 roads is pending, and it will be carried out only after monsoon. Till then Mumbai residents will have to suffer from problems like traffic jam, road accidents and waterlogging. On the other hand, the official gave reason for the delay and said that repair work was delayed as some staff was on the election duty in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls.
BMC has claimed that it has completed more than 90 per cent desilting of the city’s nullahs and almost entirely trimmed trees. At the same time, the desilting and cleaning work of nullahs is still going on at many places in the city. However, officials claim that the ongoing repair works has come to a safe stage. Mumbaikars are worried as BMC again missed deadline for the completion of pre-monsoon repair works. Monsoon will reach Kerala in next 48 hours. It is expected to hit Mumbai within 10 days.
It is remarkable that for monsoon preparedness, the work of desilting of nullahs starts on April 1 of every year. The deadline for completion of the work is May 15. However, the deadline was extended to May 31 this year. In a meeting with police department, railways, BMC, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport undertaking (BEST), Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Indian Navy, Public Works Department (PWD) meteorological department and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) officials, it was decided to fill potholes in the city by May 31, 2019.
An official from Road and Traffic Department said that some repair works are not finished. The department has ensured the security of the common man in these areas. He said that they take up repair of remaining works after monsoon in October. But it will be further delayed by one or two months due to the Model Code of Conduct of upcoming assembly elections.
Storm Water Drain (SWD) department’s official said, “We have removed silt from nullahs. After the silt dries, it will be moved to some dumping sites over the next few days.”
As per the data available with the SWD department, the city has over 2900-km drain network comprising minor and major nullahs, arch drains, roadside open drains and closed pipe drains. The island city has 530-km of drain network, the western suburbs over 1600-km network, and eastern suburbs a total of 857-km network.
In spite of tall claims about the preparedness for the monsoon, Mumbaikars witness heavy waterlogging due to choked nullahs. They have to face inconvenience because of potholed roads. The delays come despite a 25 per cent increase in the BMC’s 2019-20 budget for road work. The BMC has made a provision of Rs1,520 crore for more work on more than 300 km of roads this year, compared to last year’s provision of Rs 1,202 crore.
While the common man suffers a lot in any monsoon-related incident, leaders of the political parties seem less careful about their plights. When this incident becomes serious or fatal, political parties and their leaders start baking their bread. Last year, some people lost their lives due to potholes and open manhole in rainwater flooded areas in Mumbai. When these accidents hit headlines, political leadership came into action. This year, though the administration is working at snail’s pace, no political leader questioned them.
On being asked about pre-monsoon repair work, the BJP spokesperson Avdhut Wagh declined to comment at all saying he has no data of work done. On the other hand, former MP of Mumbai North Central and the Congress leader Priya Dutt, who lost the Lok Sabha election to Poonam Mahajan, asked to raise this issue with the Congress corporator and leader of opposition in BMC Ravi Raja and he did not respond.
BMC officials too could not give data about work done. They passed on their responsibility by giving the phone number of other departments. The Drainage Department gave the number of Disaster Control Department. When contacted, Disaster Control Department gave the number of Solid Waste Management Department. There was no competent authority in the Solid Waste Management Department and the official receiving the phone call disconnected it.
By Rajesh Kumar Choudhary & Moumita Mukherjee