Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar is renowned for his no-holds-barred style of functioning. This was once again in evidence on Monday when he asked Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials to take charge of Eastern and Western Express Highways.
During a meeting on Middle Vaitarna Project, Pawar raised two issues with the corporation officials — repair and maintenance of the arterial roads and responsibility for the construction of Gargai and Pinjal dams to cater to Mumbai’s future water supply needs.
Sources said, the deputy CM brought up the matter of potholes on Mumbai roads and public outcry over it.
When he pointed out the shoddy condition of both the highways, BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte, who was present along with additional municipal commissioner Rajeev Jalota, said the highways were not under BMC’s jurisdiction. To this Pawar asked why the civic body couldn’t take the thoroughfares under its wings.
He did not stop at that and called up a senior official from Public Works Department (PWD) and asked for consent.
When he believed he had received a positive response from the other side, Pawar told BMC officials to maintain these avenues that connect Bandra to Dahisar and Sion to Mulund.
When contacted, commissioner Kunte said it was difficult for him to comment on the matter unless the state government makes its stand clear on the issue.
The state PWD is currently spending Rs 3 to 4 crore every year over repairs and maintenance of the two highways.
Last year the budget was approximately Rs 4.5 crore, of which Rs 1.5 crore was expended as labour charges, an official from the department said. The highways were with MMRDA from 2005 to 2009 for widening and were later handed back to PWD for conservancy.
What is important is that Pawar’s suggestion came when no one from PWD department, including minister in-charge Chhagan Bhujbal, was present for the meeting. PWD officials say it would be difficult for BMC to carry out the job owing to traffic on the highways, which have 10 lanes each apart from service roads.
On Gargai and Pinjal irrigation projects, the directives by Pawar were clear. He asked the civic body to take up construction of the undertakings aimed at catering to the water supply needs of the metropolis in the near future. BMC’s submission during the meeting was that the project might take up 10 years to reach completion – 2 to 3 years would be required for survey and design; acquiring myriad permissions may take another few years.
The meeting was attended by urban development department secretary Shrikant Singh and secretary (command area development) Devendra Shirke.