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No Fear No Favour

Dear Government, no need for bullet trains, instead give us safe roads

We live in a country where we are talking about bringing high-speed bullet trains into transport and yet couldn’t fix some deadly potholes on roads.

Earlier, on Tuesday evening, a 21-year-old bike-borne woman died after allegedly ramming into a lorry while trying to avoid a pothole in Devanahalli.

According to the police, while trying to negotiate a pothole, Vijayalakshmi slowed down the two-wheeler when a truck hit them from behind. As the women fell off their vehicle, the truck ran over Kavita, killing her instantaneously.

A woman, identified as Radha (47), lost her life when she was run over by a truck at Pantharapalya near Nayandahalli. She was riding pillion with her nephew Ravi Kumar (24) in a bike which skidded while negotiating a crater-like pothole.

In another incident, a one-year-old infant fell from her mother’s arms and died as her father lost control of the two-wheeler they were riding due to potholes on the roads of Bengaluru.

Roads in the city of Bengaluru also claimed the lives of a scooter-borne couple, while their granddaughter escaped with minor bruises early in the day on Mysuru Road.

Police said Anthony Joseph (55) and his wife Sagai Mary (52) were on their way home on their scooter with their six-year-old granddaughter from St Johns Hospital, where they had taken her as she was running a fever.

Merely a day after a couple stumbled and fell to their death due to Bengaluru’s pothole-ridden roads, another couple became victims to the same pothole. However, they survived to tell the tale.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has blamed torrential rains for the potholes in the city and has promised to rid the city of potholes in a fortnight.
Facing heat over battered city roads becoming a nightmare for commuters claiming three lives in the past one week and leaving scores of others injured, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday directed the BBMC to make the city roads pothole free within a fortnight.

The chief minister has just handed the BBMP a major task of filling up 15,935 potholes across Bengaluru in just 15 days. It will be just an impossible task, whether it is a hot mix, cold mix or white topping that the BBMP is likely to take up. In the process, politicians, contractors and officials make money, leaving the residents to their fate, even as deaths due to potholes continue to mount.

A stretch of potholes and puddles denies access to a petrol bunk near Koramangala 6th Block.

Officials have been warned to meet the deadline or face action. But whether the Chief Minister has taken the weather into account when giving this ultimatum, is anybody’s guess.  Going by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre the city is likely to receive heavy rain right up to October 20, which does not augur well for officials trying to repair the city roads as all their efforts could get washed away.

Observes  Mr D S Rajashekar, president, Citizens’ Action Forum with sarcasm, “The Chief Minister has set enough deadlines, not just for potholes, but for  projects like the Hennur flyover, Indira Canteens, the Kempegowda Layout site sharing and so on, but they are not met and then he gives another deadline. It is impossible to fill potholes in 15 days. Even if officials try to fill some in an adhoc manner,  they are sure to be washed away in the rains.”

Mr Rajashekar also believes the BBMP has greatly underestimated the number of potholes in the city. “If we go by the BBMP, there are only 15,935 potholes in the city, which has 15,000 km of road. Roughly put it this works out to only one pothole for every kilometre of road, which is impossible. The BBMP should get its basics right first,” he stresses.

Potholes and cracks on a white-topped road in Vasanth Nagar

The civic activist rightly wonders why no road contractor has been penalised or blacklisted for not maintaining the roads as required. “This only means there is no accountability and that  there is a cartel at work. Today’s contractors become tomorrow’s corporators, who in turn become MLAs and then eventually Ministers. It’s a vicious circle,” he adds with regret, stressing that only citizen participation in ward committees can put an end to this sad state of affairs.

Coming down hard on the BBMP for its lack of realism, traffic expert and advisor to the state government on infrastructure, Prof M N Srihari asks indignantly, “Is Bengaluru the only city in India to receive so much rain? Even a school child  knows there are many other states and cities that receive more rain than Bengaluru but do not have as many potholes.”

A pothole on Ambedkar Medical College Road

While residents in the city are sceptical of this ‘hole’ exercise, officials on the ground spoke to Express about the challenges they face. Like new potholes springing up every day following rains, making their task difficult.

“Many of us have been doing the job manually. We go around the area along with contractors and note down the number of potholes and other details. With rains lashing the City every night, these numbers are increasing,” said an engineer.   He said waterlogging also alters the dimensions of the potholes.
“We go along with the contractor, measure the potholes and provide an estimate to fill these. When we visit the same spot a day or two later, the potholes would have become deeper. The other parameters also change following this,” said another BBMP engineer.

A crater filled with rainwater on Infantry Cross Road in Bengaluru

Dear Government, please wake up..!!

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