The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) week-long ‘Pothole Challenge 2019’, rolled out Friday, has come under sharp criticism from corporators across party lines. Under the move, the civic body has urged citizens to report about potholes on its official ‘Fixit App’ and win Rs 500 if they were not repaired within 24 hour.
Calling it a “laughable idea” as the BMC administration has the primary responsibility to fix potholes, corporators said the civic body was trying to divert attention by introducing such “impractical” solutions to a persistent problem. Corporators have also questioned the source of the reward money that the BMC was planning to dole out to citizens and termed the exercise “a waste of taxpayers’ money”.
Announcing the pothole challenge from its official Twitter handle (@mybmc) that will continue till November 7, the municipal corporation, however, has made it clear that not every pothole will get immediate attention. For being eligible for the reward under the challenge, BMC said, the pothole must be at least three-inch deep and one-foot wide on a civic body controlled road. If such a pothole, after it is flagged on the official app, is not repaired within a day, the reward will be given to the person who reported it first, the civic body said. To avoid repetition, potholes will have to be geotagged on the Fixit App, it said. Moreover, only two potholes can be reported by a person.
At a Standing Committee meeting Friday, opposition leader Ravi Raja said, “The tweet says that Rs 500 reward will be given for reporting potholes. But has BMC made any budgetary allocation for paying money to the citizens? This is nothing but wasting taxpayers’ money and in a way, the administration is admitting that they failed to make the roads better. In the last few months, at least four applications and online portals have been developed for addressing potholes, but there is no change in sight.”
Taking a potshot at Municipal Commissioner Pravin Pardeshi for introducing the challenge without discussing it with corporators, Raja said, “This is like an employment scheme for unemployed persons since the country is facing a job crisis. Also, this shows how the commissioner does not trust his engineers about repairing potholes. Despite monsoon being over, the condition of roads has become worse.”
BJP corporator Prabhakar Shinde also termed it “a poor step” of the civic administration. “This is a laughable announcement and shows a complete failure of civic administration in handling the pothole issue. Why only roads? All other departments should start such a reward for citizens for reporting civic complaints.”
He added, “In the 2015 road scam, massive action was taken against engineers, but what was the result? Everything is zero. Despite a massive crackdown, they failed to take any concrete steps to ensure good roads.”
Congress corporator Asif Zakaria said there was a need for a uniform and long-term policy for dealing with the pothole issue. Calling the challenge a waste of money, he said, “First the civic body wasted people’s money by making poor quality roads, and now for reporting their shoddy job they will reward citizens.”
Shiv Sena leader and Standing Committee chairman Yashwant Jadhav, meanwhile, sought an explanation from the administration. “This announcement has created confusion among citizens. From BMC officials to other staff, like clean-up marshals and nuisance detectors, can be involved in finding potholes rather than rewarding citizens. This means we are not able to fill potholes. This should have been discussed in the Standing Committee before its announcement. The BMC administration should submit a report.”
Meanwhile, defending the move, Additional Municipal Commissioner Praveen Darade said: “There is no budget provision made for the scheme. The reward amount will be deducted from officials concerned and contractors’ pocket.”
An official statement issued by Pardeshi’s office stated, “For road repair and potholes there are three sections — central agency (road department), respective wards and contractors — responsible for maintaining good roads. A deduction will be done from the roads department’s Executive Engineer and ward’s Assistant Municipal Commissioner concerned.”
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