Roads reduced to mounds of debris are a common sight in Bengaluru. The rules say that no road can be dug up within a year of being relaid, but without a mechanism in place, the BBMP has no way of keeping track. Government agencies and cable companies run amock, destroying newly-laid roads without proper consent. With nobody willing to bear responsibility and clueless authorities, it’s time the BBMP delivered on its promise to set up an external monitoring agency.
With the monsoon hardly making its presence felt, the city remains hot and dusty and being out in the streets is not easy for either pedestrians or motorists. Their discomfort is compounded by the dug up roads that seem to appear from nowhere and overnight in many localities, leaving people with the unenviable job of negotiating the rubble and rising dust in their path.
Far from being confined to some neighbourhoods, the phenomenon is widespread and seen equally in Koramangala, Madiwala, HSR Layout, Whitefield, Chamarajpet, Ramamurthy Nagar, Bellandur, Mysore Road, Hosur Road and Ballari Road where unsurfaced or shoddily resurfaced roads make the lives of motorists and pedestrians miserable.
While the water board dig up roads to replace water and sanitary lines or to attend to complaints of leakage, the electricity board digs them up to lay or maintain power lines underground.
BBMP is the owner of roads in the city. But the owner seems to be not aware of the government and OFC service providers who are digging roads
— Nitin Seshadri, Koramangala 3rd Block Resident Welfare Association
This apart, the Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) mafia quietly digs up roads overnight , leaving them a mess for the unsuspecting motorist. Although permission is not granted for digging roads that have been asphalted less than a year previously, it doesn’t seem to be stopping the various agencies from doing their worst. With the traffic already unruly in most parts of the city, the dug up roads only make things harder for most commuters.
Says Mr Nitin Seshadri of Koramangala 3rd Block Resident Welfare Association, "As the BBMP is the owner of roads in the city, all agencies be it the BWSSB or BESCOM, are required to take its permission for road cutting. They are also supposed to deposit funds with it for resurfacing the roads, but in reality this doesn’t happen. Even OFC service providers dig up roads and there is no one to question them.”
BBMP does not have a proper mechanism in place to monitor road cutting. Both government agencies and service providers are exploiting the situation which ultimately affects citizens"
— Sandeep Anirudhan, volunteer of citizens group- Whitefield Rising
Mr Sandeep Anirudhan, a volunteer with the citizens group, Whitefield Rising, recalls that the ECC Road in Whitefield was redeveloped only a year ago. “The drain covers were to be levelled with the road, but they are all protruding above the road level causing accidents. Also, the roads were dug up to lay sanitation pipes towards the Inner and Outer Circle, but they have not been resurfaced yet. The Athashri Road, which was dug up to construct drains, hasn’t been resurfaced either, creating a lot of inconvenience for the residents," he laments.
BBMP officials agree that the BWSSB and BESCOM often do not bother to resurface the roads they dig up and expect it to do their job . “Even if these agencies resurface the roads, they do it shoddily and the asphalt gets washed away in heavy rain, “ they note.
Ask Mayor G Padmavathi and she too acknowledges that government agencies hardly inform the BBMP when digging up roads. “Some OFC service providers too dig up roads without taking the needed permission,” she regrets.
So what’s the solution? The Mayor says an agency could be set up to monitor the road digging in the city. “We are in talks for setting up a private agency. A decision will be taken on this soon,” she reveals. Can Bengalureans then hope for better maintained roads in future? Only time will tell.
‘Private agencies flout rules, cut roads at night without consent’
BBMP is struggling to keep a tab on rampant digging across the city. Civic bodies-BWSSB, BESCOM do not care to take BBMP's permission for digging roads.
OFC mafia takes permission for digging only one portion of road. But use the same permit to dig at multiple locations."
— BBMP Engineer
A engineer from BBMP who did not wish to be named admitted that BBMP isn't efficient in monitoring digging activities. He recalled that Bengaluru Development Minister Mr K J George while inspecting areas around Palace Road, Jayamahal and Cantonment areas last year lost his cool. To curb rampant digging, he insisted on setting up a separate private agency.
"But till date that separate private agency isn't set up" lamented the engineer. On who this separate agency will solve the problem, the engineer explained "Once this separate private agency is set up, whoever wishes to dig roads be it government agencies like BWSSB and BESCOM and private OFC service providers should first deposit the charges for road cutting and also for relaying in advance to BBMP." Once this process is completed, the private agency will dig the road where the permission is sought. After the work taken up is completed, agency will use the funds already deposited to restore the road, he said.
Not stopping there he went on to explain how OFC service providers are spoiling newly laid roads he said "Permissions are not granted to dig roads relaid within one year. But OFC firms do it during night hours without anybody's knowledge."
This apart they have another modus operandi. In the areas where citizens are proactive and keep an eye on such illegal digging, OFC firms fool citizens by producing permission letters, he said and added that "OFC mafia take permission for digging only one portion of road. But use the same permission to dig at multiple locations."
Q & A with Mayor: Govt agencies dig up roads without BBMP nod
Q: We see rampant digging by government agencies or private ones at many spots in the city. Are they all legal?
A: Yes, the BBMP is aware of such rampant digging. Permission for road cutting should be taken online and it is granted after consulting the zonal officer concerned. We cannot say that all of the digging in the city is legal as government agencies hardly inform us when they do it. Some OFC service providers also illegally dig roads without taking the required permission.
Q: If all the digging is not legal, then what is the BBMP planning to do about it ?
A: Illegal digging takes place as government agencies do not inform us and the private party take permission to dig say 300 meters of road but end up digging up the whole road. At a recent meeting we warned OFC operators to declare their intention and pay the required money to the BBMP or face action. All the illegal OFC cables will be cut without mercy from the coming week starting with the TenderSURE roads.
Q: With the BBMP struggling to monitor road cutting, will a private agency be asked to do the job?
A: We are in talks for creating such a private agency. A decision will be taken on this soon.