Here’s a giant potholed sized mystery about the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. In responses to RTI queries, it has regularly claimed to have addressed over 99 per cent of complaints about the craters that dot every road in the city and its suburbs, and yet there are thousands of potholes all across Mumbai. And it is not as if only aesthetics are in question; there have been pothole-caused fatalities on the roads. Just this year, at least five deaths have been reported in Mumbai and MMR areas of Thane, Bhiwandi, Belapur, Mira Bhayander due to accidents caused by potholes. So are people not complaining enough, or are the complaints not being given due attention?
This seemed to be the central question that India’s richest municipal corporation was trying to answer earlier this month when it announced its Pothole Challenge 2019, a public road crater spotting competition that dangled the carrot of Rs 500 to every complainant whose pothole was not fixed within 24 hours. What’s more, this prize money was to come out of the local engineer’s salary.
The conditions were that any reported pothole had to be 3 inches deep and at least 1 foot wide on a BMC constructed road. One person could report only two potholes. The game was open for “entries” from November 1 to 7.
On Thursday, the last day, Additional Municipal Commissioner, (Eastern Suburbs), Vijay Singhal, who is also acting municipal commissioner, pronounced the scheme a success. He said 91 per cent of the complaints had been fixed within 24 hours. Until November 5, over 1,600 pothole complaints came in on a newly launched Fixit app.
“The basic idea of introducing this scheme was to bring transparency, accountability and responsibility so that we can provide better citizen-centric services. This is the first time when the BMC has come up with this kind of a scheme. As per reports about 91% complaints have been filled within 24-hours,” Singhal said.
There had been delays in fixing some cases, he said, “but only by minutes or hours”. He said the strike rate of 91 per cent was “satisfactory and we will go further.”
Citizens and activists have mixed views on the whole experiment. Activist Mushtaq Ansari, who is famous as the Mumbai man who fills potholes on his own, said while the challenge was on, civic officials raced to attend to the complaints.