Many, like 16-year-old Prakash Bilhore, lose their lives to the killer potholes on the city’s roads. Only last week, 36-year-old Vijay Kendre, an assistant manager with a private bank, was crushed under the wheels of a speeding truck after he hit a pothole and was thrown off his bike when on the Kalyan-Bhiwandi Road.
Though civic bodies in the region, including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, do not offer any compensation to victims who sustain injuries or lose lives on account of poorly maintained roads, activists and legal experts said it may be time for the municipal bodies to set aside funds and award a certain sum as ex-gratia compensation to the victims or their kin.
Advocate Jamshed Mistry, who is appearing as amicus curiae in a roads-related PIL in the Bombay High Court, pointed out that while there is no norm of awarding compensation, the family of a victim can demand it by filing a case in the civil court.
“With the number of deaths being caused by potholes, I am surprised more people are not coming forward for compensation. The liability of the death caused by poorly maintained roads would lie with the contractor and the corporation. Since there have been so many pothole-related deaths, even in the absence of a norm, the civic body should consider setting aside a certain amount of money as ex-gratia for victims who die or are permanently disabled,” said Mistry.
Activists stated that the Indian Railways offers compensation to victims of accidents, and there was no reason why the BMC should be exempted. Rajkumar Sharma of AGNI Foundation said, “The corporation, from the commissioner to the contractor, should all be held accountable for pothole-related deaths.”
In Bilhore’s case, the Aarey Colony police had registered a case against three persons, including officials of private companies that had trenched the road and a civic official. The police stated that the chargesheet was filed around four months ago and the case was currently pending with the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal.