Claiming that protests have fallen on deaf years, residents and political parties angry with pothole-ridden roads have resorted to creative ways of agitating in Thane, Kalyan and Navi Mumbai. It started with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) organising a long-jump session over large potholes on the Sion-Panvel Highway on July 9. MNS leader from Navi Mumbai, Gajanan Kale, said the idea was to bring out the facts in a unique way. “We had named all potholes after political leaders because if it is a perennial occurrence, we might as well accept them and name them. We then encouraged people to practice long-jump, to show how big the potholes are. It was in a way a protest to shame the authorities who have left a highway in such a bad condition,” Kale said.
Another form of protest by the MNS was a slow scooter race. It was held in Kalyan, a few days later. “Since there had been an accidental death already, we are trying to show how a common man must be driving; as slowly as possible,” a participant said.
The Shiv Sena protested in Kalyan by offering pain relief balms to people free of cost. “The potholes have made the entire road bumpy and commuting everyday must be painful. Hence the balm,” said Girish Kamble, a local resident who distributed balms among people, along with other party workers.
On July 23, Thane residents organised “dindi”, or a procession, on Ashadhi Ekadashi. “This year on Ekadashi, we prayed for the potholes to go away. We also prayed that our municipal officers do their jobs,” said Kamini Nerulkar who participated in the “dindi” organised in front of the collector’s office.
While potholes in Kalyan and on the Sion-Panvel Highway are yet to be filled up, roads in Thane may get better. “We are using special chemicals that are rain resistant. Most potholes have been filled,” an officer from Thane Municipal Corporation said.
In Mharal village on the Kalyan-Murbad Road, villagers organised a unique form of protest. “We are going to sit in the potholes and mark our protest. We hope the authorities look at our plight,” said Ashwin Mangle, a local resident. According to Bhauji Patil, a village elder, the sit-in is meant for the safety of commuters as well. “If we are sitting and blocking the traffic, we are saving some lives. These roads are an invitation for accidents to happen,” he said.
While the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) has already initiated action, by registering an FIR against the road maintenance firm, Public Work Department (PWD) officials, who are responsible for the Sion-Panvel Highway, are yet to set the wheels in motion.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) officials, responsible for the Kalyan highways said they are working on the roads. “We are ensuring quick response to the pothole issue. Our officers are on the ground,” an officer said.