As the campaigning for the Assembly polls coming to an end on Saturday, the silence of political parties on potholes and bad roads has not gone unnoticed by residents of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
Citizen activist and member of F-North Citizens Federation, Nikhil Desai, recalled that in the 2014 elections, there were hoardings promising good roads, but this year, there has been zero discussion on this issue.
“I remember in 2014, BJP put up hoardings along the highways promising good quality roads if they were elected. They won and even after five years the condition of roads is the same. Elections have become a gimmick. Parties are promising jobs and food at subsidised rates but the talk of basic infrastructure like good roads is missing. National issues like Kashmir are being played out, though it is the roads that need the attention,” Desai told The Indian Express.
Last week, 25-year-old Neha Shaikh died after being run over by a vehicle when she fell off her two-wheeler after hitting a pothole in Bhiwandi. 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. On September 6, an autorickshaw hit a pothole and turned upside down on a service road in Kherwadi, killing the driver and injuring two passengers.
Dadasaheb Bhilore, who lost his 16-year-old son in one such accident because of potholes on Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road in 2015, is disappointed that politicians are not even talking about the city’s shoddy road condition in their speeches.
“Looking at the condition of roads, when a person leaves home, it is not certain that he/she will return safely. People are getting injured due to potholes or even lose their lives, but nothing has changed. Political parties are not even talking about what they will do to improve the condition of roads. They want our votes but nobody is saying in next five years they will give best quality roads. The 15 years of Congress-NCP rule had only given promises and now in the last five years same was done by the BJP-Shiv Sena,” Bhilore said.
After his son’s death, Bhilore took it upon himself and started filling potholes to prevent accidents.
“When the chief minister or prime minister is visiting for any rally in the state, the roads are repaired immediately. But when there are complaints from residents, authorities do not take any action,” he added.
In Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has claimed that there were only 2,500 pothole-related complaints, adding that they have repaired most of them.
The manifestos of Shiv Sena and BJP have a mention of providing good roads across the state. Citizen activist Mushtaq Ansari, who is famous for filling potholes himself across the city, said that “every year there is a promise of good roads, but no change is in sight”.
“Every election, promises are made to give good quality roads. But in the end, common people are still suffering. Potholes worsen traffic, vehicles are damaged, people are getting injured and losing their lives. After any such accident case, victims don’t even get justice as the police register case against the vehicles involved rather than road contractors or civic officials who are responsible for road repair and maintenance,” Ansari said.