According to a recent survey conducted by Chevrolet in Mumbai, driving during rains is considered one of the worst driving scenarios by commuters (50%), followed by driving in the dark or at night (22%). It would not be surprising if the same sentiment was echoed by commuters from other parts of the nation also, especially those navigating the deadly roads of Delhi and the National Capital Region.
Even during other seasons, commuters have no respite from deadly speed breakers, road accidents, traffic jams, non-functional traffic lights, etc. Additionally, there are infrastructure related problems such as non-working street lights, absent or broken footpaths, open drains, etc.
As per the Daily Mail, the total length of roads in Delhi is nearly 30,000 km, which also includes more than 388 km of National Highways. Of this, around 1,260 km falls under the Public Works Department (PWD), while nearly 28,000 km, mostly in residential colonies, is owned by the three municipal corporations.
According to Delhi PWD Minister Satyendra Jain’s statement in 2015, “Out of Delhi’s 1,260-km road length, about 600 km needed a complete overhaul, about 300-400 km needed carpeting and about 300 km needed no work.” In addition, nearly 2,000 rough patches that measured over 25,000 square metres were identified in a survey. As for the condition this year, the three municipal corporations of Delhi, North, South and East MCD, identified 200+ stretches where repair work was planned to be completed before June 15. Even though funds were given for the repair of these roads, the corporations later admitted that 155 of these were still not ready.
Such a lackadaisical approach worsens existing hazards such as potholes, making them vulnerable spots for accidents and collisions. Complaints of spine and neck problems while travelling and other such problems are on the rise.
The most commonly reported cause of the poor conditions of roads is the multiplicity of agencies in Delhi, which leads to further issues such as uncoordinated plans, lack of funds and drainage problems. As a senior government officer explains, “The task of maintaining drains falls under the jurisdiction of various departments like the PWD, the Delhi Jal Board, the Irrigation and Flood Control department and the MCDs that have control of different drains. If one agency is given charge of all the drains, the issue will be solved faster”.
As per reports, “The Unified Traffic And Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (Uttipec) was formed so that it will intervene in matters of the multiplicity of agencies and work as a watchdog. But that never happened,” said S Velmurugan, principal scientist, Central Road Research Institute. The issue of lack of funds was highlighted in a report submitted by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in the Rajya Sabha, which said that the main hitch is the sharing of revenues between the Centre and the State.
The complaints show no signs of reducing in number. As per a report published in May 2017 by the Praja Foundation, 704 complaints were filed in 2014 about the re-laying and repair of roads. In 2015, the number increased to 1809 and in 2016 it went up to 2595.
In comparison, the area councillors of three corporations raised the issue at house meetings only 111 times in 2014, 81 times in 2015 and 82 times in 2016. Amid such alarming number of complaints, multiple claims are made about their resolution, such as “When we get a complaint about a pothole, we try to resolve it within 48 hours” made in 2015, “Over 1,000 PWD workers are attending to complaints round-the-clock. We are using more than 500 pumps in areas affected by waterlogging” made in 2016 and the latest, that “There is a centralized complaint centre for complaints about potholes and rough patches on the roads under its control.” Despite this, the truth is out for all to see during the months of June-July-August.
Add to this the confusion among citizens surrounding which complaints go where. In a classic example, it took more than three years for Vasant Kunj residents to figure out who is responsible for the maintenance of a Master Plan road. And, instead of taking ownership, the BJP-ruled corporations and Delhi government’s PWD kept passing the buck.
Roads form an integral part of our lives, there is almost no one, who doesn’t use them on a regular basis which is why their deplorable condition affects us so much. We witness people complaining about water-logging every monsoon, we read about accidents caused due to potholes, the absence of street-lights makes driving unsafe but we drive on those very roads every day and forget about them the moment we reach our homes and offices. We don’t stop to think if we can contribute to their improvement, that we can become agents of change and make life easier for other commuters, and even if we could get one pothole repaired by putting in extra effort, we are potentially saving the lives of many.
This article was also published here.