A year ago, 16-year-old Prakash Bilhore died after the bike he was riding pillion on hit a pothole and tipped over on the busy Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road. Since then, his father Dadarao Bilhore has taken up the responsibility of fixing potholes left unattended by the civic body.
Having repaired 360 potholes so far, Dadarao Monday participated in a rally organised by NGO Watchdog Foundation, filling seven potholes on the stretch between J B Nagar Metro station and Marol Naka Metro station.
Prakash was returning home on July 29 last year, having just completed admission formalities at a college in Bhandup. He was seated behind his cousin when the front wheel of the motorbike skidded into a pothole. Prakash was thrown off the bike and suffered a brain haemorrhage. He was declared dead at Holy Spirit Hospital in Andheri.
After losing his son, 46-year old Dadarao, a vegetable vendor, decided he would repair as potholes to ensure they don’t claim another life. “My son died because the government authorities could not be bothered to repair the pothole. The BMC only fills potholes after people die. I have decided to chip in and prevent people from dying,” he said.
Dadarao repairs potholes in areas such as Andheri East, Goregaon East, Mankhurd and Ghatkopar. “I travel from Marol to the Vashi APMC market every day to buy vegetables. I keep track of the potholes along the way,” he said.
For his work, Dadarao uses extra material, including paver blocks and sand, left behind by contractors and civic authorities. “I take the measurement of the pothole and pack it with paver blocks and sand. But the repair often doesn’t hold and the material washes away,” he said.
On the day Prakash died, his 24-year-old cousin, Ram Bilhore, was riding the motorbike. He believes he was saved only because he was wearing a helmet. “My brother was not as lucky. That day, even though I was riding very slowly, there was no way I could have seen that submerged pothole. The one lesson I learnt from the experience was to always wear a helmet. I now encourage all my friends to wear one even if they are riding pillion,” he said.
Dadarao says he will keep up his mission against potholes till the day government authorities discharge their responsibilities. “For people who ride motorbikes, it is scary to be out on the roads in the monsoon. Any submerged pothole can lead to terrible injuries, or worse, death,” he said.
Dadarao and his family members have also launched a mobile application called Spothole, which they use to track and repair potholes the BMC fails to fill.
Apart from conducting a rally, the Watchdog Foundation has written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, demanding durable roads.
“We have written to the CM and the civic chief, asking for potholes on Andheri-Kurla road to be repaired and the illegal parking be stopped. The potholes have become a grave concern, they are putting lives at risk. The government should stop wasting tax payers’ money and make roads in the city safe again,” said Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation.