Civic body sanctioned lump sum just a few days before code of conduct came into effect; while critics call it an election sop, BMC says it's 'for development'.
January 3 was when the code of conduct kicked off, restraining politicos from blatant voter appeasement to sway opinion prior to the civic elections next month. But seasoned netas work their way around such barriers, or, in this case, before the barrier is put in place.
Around two weeks back, with the code of conduct looming like a sop-killer in the near distance and canvassing at full pelt, the BMC hastily -- to be precise, within minutes -- sanctioned a lump sum: Rs 8 crore to finally fix those potholes that got on your nerves and broke your back throughout the monsoon until the peak of winter.
According to BMC, the post-monsoon work is the third phase of pothole repairs, first being pre-monsoon and second during the monsoon.
But the post-monsoon work seems more pre-poll, critics point out.
According to sources, the spending has the stamp of approval of the municipal commissioner, and the work will begin soon.
Post-monsoon or pre-poll? Civic officials say repairs of potholes are
part of the post-monsoon work, but the project's timing tells a different
story. file pic
"The contracts have been sanctioned ward-wise, except for one ward where no pothole repair would be undertaken. Mostly, such works are sanctioned right before the civic elections to please the contractor lobby," said insiders.
"Unlike other wards, M-East (Chembur, Sion, Trombay) did not have potholes as most of the roads are in the guarantee period," said an official from the roads department.
Last year, the BMC had allotted Rs 40 crore for the three phases of road repair. The funds were exhausted in the first phase before the monsoon itself and an additional Rs 17.38 crore were sanctioned for post-monsoon work, which will now begin. "Roads to be repaired have been identified zone-wise and an agency has been appointed to carry out the job at the earliest," said Standing Committee Chairman and Sena corporator Rahul Shewale.
'It's not the polls'
Rubbishing any election-related motives, Shewale said the roads needed to be repaired and that the elections schedule was just incidental. "We think about development first. That is why reconstruction of 160 major and 600 minor roads in the city has been taken up, and is now under way," said Shewale.
"August 2011 received the decade's highest rainfall due to which roads have been eroded. Rs 8 crore was sanctioned to even out potholes and it has nothing to do with the elections," said the Sena man.
Chief Engineer Velotia was also quick to refute any election-related agenda behind the sudden and opportune magnanimity of the civic body.
The hole story: The reconstruction and repair of 160 major and 600
minor roads have been undertaken ward-wise, and an agency has been
appointed to carry out the job at the earliest, officials said. File pics
Before and after the code
In two months leading up to the imposition of code of conduct on January 3, the saffron alliance-ruled BMC cleared proposals worth over Rs 3,500 crore. It has been learnt that the standing committee cleared proposals for storm water drainage system, roads etc within minutes.
For instance, 70 proposals worth Rs 250 crore were approved within a matter of 5-10 minutes in a BMC meeting, while Rs 1,200 crore worth of proposals and Rs 574 crore worth of proposals were cleared in two separate hour-long meetings.
After January 3, Rs 80 crore worth of proposals have been cleared for a host of projects concerning minor improvement projects in five wards, repairs for a civic-owned building, drainage system, construction of a storm water drain in Bhandup, and the appointment of third party auditor SGS for major roads.
The number of potholes in the city last year
Rs 4,000 cr
The amount BMC has spent to maintain and construct the 1,940-km road network in the city since 2007
The most number of potholes have been identified in P-North, K-East, R-Central, R-South, H-East, S, T, and N Wards comprising areas like Borivli, Dahisar, Malad, Kandivli, Andheri (E), Mulund, Bhandup, Ghatkopar and Vikhroli.
The following wards with exceptionally cratered roads will consume most of the Rs 8 crore funds sanctioned:
R-Central: Rs 1.2 crore
K-East: Rs 56 lakh
P-North: Rs 53 lakh
From the Rs 17 crore that had been sanctioned last year, the biggest amounts would be spent on works in the following wards:
P-North: Rs 2.50 crore (Malad West, Marve)
R-South: Rs 1.8 crore
H-East: Rs 1.5 crore
As even as it gets
The least amounts will be spent on the roads in F-South (Parel), L (Kurla) and M-West (Sion-Kurla) wards. The M-East ward has not been sanctioned any amount.