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Successive model codes, unstable govt wear down city infrastructure

The PWD, responsible for their upkeep, blames the bad condition of the roads on work taken up by other agencies.

Several roads in the capital need re-carpeting.(ARCHIVE) Several roads in the capital need re-carpeting. (Express Archive)

Scores of roads in the city are riddled with potholes. The PWD, responsible for their upkeep, blames the bad condition of the roads on work taken up by other agencies. And it’s not just roads. A host of infrastructure projects being undertaken by other civic agencies in the city has been beset with problems. RUHI BHASIN, NAVEED IQBAL & PRAGYA KAUSHIKA report.

PWD passes the buck, blames weather & polls for bad roads

Re-carpeting of roads, which are in a good condition, is a usual sight before every election, but not so in Delhi. Bearing the brunt of successive model code of conduct — one before the Assembly election last December and the present one for the Lok Sabha elections — the cold weather and the lack of a stable government in Delhi are the capital’s roads.

Work for which tenders were floated after the model code for the Assembly polls ended are being taken up now. According to the Public Works Department (PWD), which is responsible for the maintenance of a majority of roads in Delhi, since re-carpeting of roads cannot be taken up during cold weather, the work has been taken up now.

“We have completed work on 616 km of roads, which was handed over to us by the municipal corporation in 2012. Some stretches — like the road from Metcalfe House to Wazirabad, roads around Rani Bagh and the road from Britannia Chowk to Rohini — could not be re-laid as the model code of conduct kicked in for the Assembly elections. Thereafter, the weather was not conducive for re-carpeting work. So, the work on these stretches is being done now. The Mehrauli-Mahipalpur upgradation work is also stuck due to clearance issues,” PWD spokesperson Ravi Mathur said.

According to the PWD, stretches along the Ring Road and the Outer Ring Road have Metro work on. Re-carpeting of these roads cannot be done until Metro work is over.

“In case a stretch is in a bad condition due to Metro work, we ask the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to carry out repair work,” a PWD official said.

The PWD passed the buck on potholes along major stretches. It claimed that patches and potholes on roads like Mathura Road were due to work taken up by other agencies such as the Delhi Jal Board or power discoms.

After roads, adding up to a length of 670 km, was transferred by the municipal corporation to the PWD in 2012, the then Congress government had enlisted the help of institutions such as IIT-Roorkee and the Delhi College of Engineering to study the conditions of roads, which were more than 60-foot wide and suggest the best method to re-carpet the roads.

This included stretches such as Baba Gangnath Marg, Somnath Marg, Vasant Marg in South Delhi, Pusa Road, Pankha Road, Rohtak Road in West Delhi and roads in Rohini, Inderpuri, Mangolpuri, Najafgarh and Nangloi. Based on the results of the study, the PWD was supposed to go about improving the road lengths. The PWD claimed that it had carried out all re-laying work.

Others disagreed. “The infrastructure has gone haywire. Roads are deteriorating. The repair work is of a poor quality and it never lasts for more than a fortnight. What is worse, there is no accountability. The sewers are overflowing in our area. I had approached the Junior Engineer, but nothing happened. We also tried to meet Arvind Kejriwal, but were not allowed an audience,” Sudarshan Kumar, a resident of Farsh Bazaar in East Delhi, said.

In areas such as Vasant Kunj, residents questioned the need to re-carpet roads. “There was no need to re-lay roads near Sector A, Pocket B and C as they were in a good condition. But this happens before every election. Why can’t this money be used for more important things like improving footpaths or drainage in the area?” a resident asked.

Several govt departments, agencies owe civic bodies crores in property tax

While the lack of an elected government in Delhi is leading to delays in the release of grants for projects lined up by civic agencies, the municipal corporations — North, South and East — say various government departments and agencies owe them crores of rupees in property tax.

Councillors and corporation officials have often stressed the need for the defaulters to pay up, which they say could bring financial stability to the corporations and reduce dependence on government funds.

After the East corporation cracked the whip on six government bodies for failing to clear property tax dues, the North corporation has also decided to take action against defaulters. The chairman of a high-powered property tax committee of North corporation Rajesh Bhatia said tax worth Rs 120 crore was due from about 1,094 commercial and residential properties.

The East corporation, in February, attached the accounts of six government buildings with tax dues of more than Rs 26 crore.
The move comes after the East corporation directed its officials to take all possible measures to recover tax dues worth over Rs 300 crore from government properties. Bhatia has warned defaulters of similar action under provisions of the DMC Act, including attachment of accounts and auction of properties.

East corporation Standing Committee chairman Sanjay Surjan said there has only been partial recovery of property tax dues from government defaulters. “The main reason for this is that these taxpayers choose to ignore our tax demands and take it lightly. The number of defaulters has also gone up,” he said.

According to him, notices were sent to all defaulters two weeks ago, but none has replied. “If their intention is to clear the dues, they would at least communicate and ask for more time, but it appears they do not intend to pay the dues. So, we have decided to attach their accounts,” he said.

PROJECTS STALLED or DELAYED

NDMC Projects

(CP redevelopment)

It was scheduled to be completed before the Commonwealth Games in 2010. But work is still continuing as tasks dropped from the original plan earlier have been taken up anew. According to  NDMC chairman Jalaj Srivastava, certain work had been dropped from the original plan earlier to expedite the redevelopment work. “There were blocks, where half of it were done and half were left. This is no way to complete the re-development work,” he said.
So far, work on façade restoration of 12 blocks, five existing subways and two new subways with escalators has been completed. An underground service corridor — which will house all the utility cables and the centralised air-conditioning duct — too is ready. Srivastava said the Scindia House, Middle Circle and radial roads left out during 2010 will also be redeveloped.

(KG Marg parking lot)

The multi-level automated parking lot was supposed to be completed by 2010. DS Constructions was given the contract in 2007. After much delay in 2012, the Centre raised a red flag by saying the site is too close to Agrasen ki Baoli. After the National Monument Authority was formed, the proposal was sent to it for approval, where it has been stuck for more than a year. Now, the NDMC has decided to scrap the project altogether. “We have decided not to undertake the project. It has been delayed inordinately,” a senior NDMC official said.

(Khan Market parking lot)

The NDMC, at the start of the year, cleared proposals related to purchase of land worth Rs 14 crore at Khan Market from the Land and Development Office. An official said the civic agency has made the payment, but the land was yet to be handed over to it.

(DLF Chanakyapuri)

After Chanakya cinema was shut in December 2007, a project to build a mall and multiplex in its place was awarded to DLF in May 2008. The company was supposed to complete the project before the Commonwealth Games in 2010, but could not get necessary clearances. Last month, the NDMC sent a notice to DLF after the Yashwant Place Mini Market Association alleged that digging had damaged shops and that the wall of a shop near Chanakya cinema collapsed. The multiplex-cum-mall is coming up on a 1.69-acre complex.

MCD Projects

(Rani Jhansi grade separator)

The multi-lane flyover remains incomplete, even six years after construction began on what the MCD called a “giant step” towards solving traffic woes. The project, whose foundation was laid in October 2008, was supposed to be completed in 27 months at Rs 177 crore. The proposed 1,619-m long flyover was to connect Pusa Road, Upper Ridge Road and Rohtak Road and extend towards ISBT. Officials said the issue of re-location of people had created hurdles in its way.

(Hospitals)

The South corporation had proposed construction of a 100-bed hospital along with a parking lot in Lajpat Nagar. Although both were demands made by residents of the area, the corporation said “environmental concerns” had led to delays. Besides, another 100-bed hospital was to come up in Tilak Nagar, which has also been stalled for similar reasons. “Trees had to be cut in order to make space for the hospital, but authorities raised environmental concerns,” an SDMC spokesperson said.

(Parking lots)

Several multi-level parking lots have been completed — and inaugurated — by all the three municipal corporations, but are yet to start functioning. The Kamla Nagar parking lot with space for 828 cars and 300 scooters is a 10-storey facility. Inaugurated, it is yet to become operational. North corporation spokesperson Yogendra Singh Mann said the parking lot was undergoing trials and would be opened soon. New parking lots at Rajouri Garden, Subhash Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Munirka and Hauz Khas, too, are yet to become fully functional.

According to officials, proposals for at least eight parking lots were awaiting clearance. A parking lot in Model Town, which can accommodate 110 vehicles, is awaiting clearance from the Fire department. Work is still continuing on a parking lot for 100 vehicles at Parade Ground.

PWD projects

(Hospitals)

A series of hospital projects by the Public Works Department (PWD) is likely to be delayed with the model code of conduct kicking in. These include hospitals in Dwarka’s Sector-9 and Sarita Vihar. “While we have floated tenders, no further action can be taken until the Lok Sabha elections are over,” an official said.

(RTR Marg flyover)

Similarly, work on constructing a parallel flyover along the single-carriageway Rao Tula Ram Marg will only start after the elections. “The tender for the project, along with the tender for constructing an underpass at Benito Juarez Marg, will be ready by April, but we will be able to call bids only  after the elections,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the PWD has written to the Lt-Governor that some of its infrastructure projects were getting stalled as the Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre was yet to clear them. “We have written to the L-G over several of our projects being stalled because of UTTIPEC. This includes construction of an underpass at Moti Bagh, Phase-II and III of the Mehrauli-Mahipalpur project, which includes widening of the road along this stretch, besides construction of parallel roads and flyovers, and clearance for a loop for the Barapullah elevated road project that will see the road extended to INA,” the official said.

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