Bengaluru is notorious not just for its potholes but for the BBMP's apathy towards them. In fact, the situation has reached a point where other agencies (whose responsibilities don’t include filling potholes), citizens and even traffic policemen have stepped in on occasion to deal with the problem, if only temporarily. Clearly, the public have understood that nothing will spur the BBMP engineers to actually do the jobs they are being paid to do. The BBMP has attempted to improve efficiency by imposing fines of Rs 1,000 on the engineers, for poorly maintained roads and the unscientific filling of potholes. Even this hasn't worked, although about Rs 42,000 has been collected from engineers from different zones. Lives have been lost on these dangerous roads, but even tragedy cannot shake the engineers' apathy.
"Why do we need the BBMP at all, if its engineers are unable to do their jobs? After all, they are being paid with taxpayer money but they refuse to work for the citizens," says Manjunath, an advocate. Despite the loss of lives, "they don't bother," he says, adding, "Criminal cases have to be slapped against the engineers who have not acted even in those extreme cases. Don't they understand the value of the lives that have been lost?"
Sridhar Pabbisetty, Urban expert and Chief Enabler at the Centre for Inclusive Governance, says, "The fines imposed are paltry and rather than this being a one-off, sporadic effort, it should be a continuous and rigorous exercise until Bengaluru is pothole-free." Pabbisetty adds that there is no magic wand in this situation. "we need to make sure that the road history project is put out in the public domain. The public should know which roads are under maintenance, which engineer is in charge of the project and the contractor who has been hired to do the job."
Transparency is critical, feels Pabbisetty, who says, "The website should allow people to report potholes. Then, information on who will fix it, as well as a deadline, should be updated on the website daily."
‘We’re taking the problem seriously’
Q: It was decided that engineers who fail to maintain roads or fill potholes unscientfically will be fined Rs 1000 per instance...
A: Yes, this was to hold them responsible for bad condition of roads in the city. There should be some degree of accountability as far as the engineers are concerned, if work is to get done.
Q: BBMP data shows that as of Saturday (Oct 19, 2019), that Rs 42,000 had been collected in fines from different zones. Engineers don't seem to be afraid of this, though, as potholes still exist.
A: Those engineers who have failed in their duty have been slapped with fines. It was to make them feel the heat. However, some engineers feel that since they have paid the fine, they can sit back and relax. That was not the BBMP's intention at all! Engineers should understand that they too are a part of this city and need to work towards making it a better place.
Q: What are your plans to make the city free of potholes?
A: I had a meeting with BBMP Commissioner Anil Kumar even on Saturday. We intend to take this pothole issue very seriously. As it was raining over the last few days, we could not continue on the pothole-filling drive. We will resume work as soon as the rain stops.
Need sunshine to fill potholes: Engineers
Potholes in Bengaluru are outnumbered only by the excuses made by BBMP engineers. Any thing will do. Currently, their justification is the rain, which is not uncommon in Bengaluru at this time of year.
Dinesh, a businessman, went to Chikpet on his bike to do some shopping. It happened to rain during that time and he had to wait until the downpour subsided. By the time he got back on his bike, the roads were waterlogged, making any potholes impossible to spot. "As I crossed the Chickpet metro station, my bike went into a big pothole. I lost balance and topped onto the ground," he says. His shopping bags fell into the water and everything in them was ruined.
BBMP engineers were prompt with their excuse. "We need sunshine to use hot mix," they say. "When we get complaints, we send the team with cold mix. We are working based on inputs from the Met Department."
Perhaps Bengaluru would be a lot closer to being pothole-free, had BBMP engineers been as prompt with their jobs as they are with their excuses!...