Monday, August 18, 2014

Bhopal and its broken-down roads

The plunging civic services of Bhopal touched a new low when the famed decades old All India Obaidullah Gold Cup Hockey Tournament had to be postponed for a reason that was as bizarre as it was unbelievable. The Bhopal Hockey Association had to shelve the Tournament for the time being on account of bad roads around the venue, the Nawabi era Aishbagh Stadium. All the approaches to the Stadium are heavily potholed and muddy though for the past few days there have been no rains. The Association felt that the players from all over the country would take away a negative impression of the city.

At least the Bhopal Hockey Association is sensitive about the city’s image. The three agencies of the city which look after its roads, however, have no such sensitivity. All the three agencies – the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, the PWD and the Capital Project Authority –, have the responsibility to construct and repair roads in various parts of the city. And, curiously all the three agencies have miserably failed to do so. That the civil engineers are mostly corrupt is known to everyone. However, the fact that the entire tribe of these engineers in the three agencies is so highly corrupt is something difficult to stomach. Shamelessly, these engineers and even their minister in-charge, after a survey, found nothing wrong with the roads. They missed all the gaping potholes, trenches and water logging. They were trying to defend the indefensible. Only an independent survey nailed their lies. Obviously, there is no monitoring to ensure compliance with the prescribed procedures. Year after year we face this rather dismal phenomenon. Neither the senior bureaucrats nor the minister in-charge are bothered. It is popularly known that money made by short-changing the government finds its way right up to the top. Hence, no senior public officials are concerned as they too share the loot. And some of these ministers used to pompously claim five or six years ago that they would convert the city into a Singapore. Shameless as they are, they don’t even eat up their words.

The unscrupulous engineers have not even spared the BRTS corridor parts of which are now in shambles even after a deficient monsoon. Reportedly, moneys were allocated by the Centre for roads of high quality and international standards.  Even here there seems to have been swindling. The most incapable organisation, the municipal corporation, was given the responsibility to build the corridor and it made a mess of it. About 5 or 6 years ago the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum had suggested to the then chief secretary to constitute an empowered authority to oversee the construction of BRTS roads mainly to prevent slippage of quality, time and money. Nothing was done and the whole thing continued in the same lackadaisical way so much so that, seven years on after the commencement of the project, it is nowhere near completion causing untold miseries to the commuters.

It is not only the urban roads that are in a mess, even the rural roads and highways are no better. The state may have achieved 11% growth in agriculture but it will never be able to register all round development without proper roads. One recalls what Mao Tse Tung had said: “if you want to prosper, build roads.” That’s precisely what we have not done and, unsurprisingly, we are lagging behind and may well continue to do so for some more years – even regardless of Modi.

Photo: from the Internet
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