Mumbai corporators' answer to bad roads: Lock up engineers for 2 hours

Seven BMC corporators thought the best way to register their protest about the poor state of roads in the G-South ward, which includes Worli, Prabhadevi and Parel, was to hold three road engineers hostage in a conference room for two hours; they even snatched away their cellphones

Fed up of roads in their ward being filled with craters and footpaths remaining dug up for days, seven BMC corporators from the city mayor’s ward hit upon a novel form of protest yesterday: they locked up three engineers of the Roads Department in a conference room following a meeting and said they wouldn’t let them go until the assistant municipal commissioner came to personally inspect the areas in question.

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Road rage: (From left) Ratna Mahale and Sunil Ahir of the NCP and Santosh Dhuri of MNS stand outside the conference room of the BMC ward office in which they had locked the three engineers
Road rage: (From left) Ratna Mahale and Sunil Ahir of the NCP and Santosh Dhuri of MNS stand outside the conference room of the BMC ward office in which they had locked the three engineers

The engineers, whose phones had also been taken away, remained the corporators’ hostages for two hours in the BMC ward office and were allowed to go only after the ward officer assured them that the assistant municipal commissioner in-charge of the Roads department would meet them soon. The unique protest, which is seen as the opening up of another front in the tussle between politicians and bureaucrats in the state, also marked another first by uniting bitter rivals Shiv Sena and MNS.

Full of holes: Corporators say even footpaths, like this one near Saat Rasta junction, are in a pitiable state and nothing is being done to repair them. PIC/Pradeep Dhivar
Full of holes: Corporators say even footpaths, like this one near Saat Rasta junction, are in a pitiable state and nothing is being done to repair them. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Long time coming
According to the corporators of the G/South ward — which includes important areas like Prabhadevi, Worli, Mahalaxmi, Saat Rasta and Parel, from where Mayor Snehal Ambekar of the Shiv Sena was elected — they have been writing to BMC officials for months to repair and concretise roads in their areas, but their requests have been falling on deaf ears.

They claim the pockmarked roads and the pitiable condition of footpaths have made them incur the wrath of voters in their constituencies for no fault of their own and that BMC officials have been ignoring their requests to remedy the situation. The corporators said they have also been trying to arrange a meeting with Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas, who is in charge of the Roads department, for months, but even that has not happened Things came to a head yesterday, when a meeting was held in the conference hall of the G/South ward office. Out of the nine corporators in the ward, NCP corporators Sunil Ahir and Ratna Mahale, MNS corporators Santosh Dhuri, Seema Shivalkar and Hemlata Vange, and Shiv Sena corporators Kishori Pednekar and Hemangi Warlikar attended the meeting. Also in attendance were Deputy Municipal Commissioner Anand Waghralkar, Ward Officer Keshav Ubale, Deputy Chief Engineer (City) of the Roads Department Sanjay Darade and two other engineers from the department.

Threat
The meeting began at 11 am and, officials told mid-day, and it didn’t take long for the corporators to get angry. “The angry corporators threatened that they would not let Deputy Chief Engineer Sanjay Darade and the other two engineers leave the room until they got an appointment with Additional Municipal Commissioner Srinivas. Deputy Municipal Commissioner Anand Waghralkar asked them to stop issuing threats and said he would walk out if they didn’t, and the corporators said he was free to leave if he wanted to,” said an official from the ward office.

“Waghralkar walked out around 11.30 am and Ward Officer Keshav Ubale also left 15 minutes later. Corporator Kishori Pednekar from the Sena then took away the engineers’ phones and all the corporators walked out, leaving only the three engineers in the conference room. Around noon, the corporators locked the door and refused to let the engineers come out,” the official added.

High drama
The corporators then stood around the door, refusing to let anyone go in or out, and said they would not let the engineers out until Additional Commissioner Srinivas visited the ward and looked at the condition of the roads and footpaths himself.

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This went on for two hours and it was only at 2 pm, when Ward Officer Ubale promised the corporators a meeting with Srinivas soon, that the engineers were finally allowed to leave the conference room.

Corporatorspeak
In various letters to the BMC, corporators have complained about roads being dug-up and pockmarked and have asked for their repair and concretisation. Footpaths have also allegedly been dug up or are missing paver blocks.

Corporators say that in several cases, no tenders were passed or work wasn’t begun despite tenders being issued. In other cases, roads and footpaths have been dug up and left like that or contracts have given to blacklisted contractors.

Santosh Dhuri, MNS
Santosh Dhuri
We locked up the engineers because the condition of the roads and footpaths in my area (Prabhadevi) are very bad and the BMC does not notify us on any issues related to road repairs or the construction of new roads. We are not even informed about the various areas that are dug up. For months, BMC officials have been turning a deaf ear to our requests to repair the roads and footpaths.

Kishori Pednekar, Shiv Sena
Kishori Pednekar, Shiv Sena

Yes, we locked them up. The condition of roads and footpaths is very bad in Lower Parel, and I have been asking the BMC to repair them for months. However, they have ignored the requests completely.

Sunil Ahir, NCP
Sunil Ahir, NCP
I had sent a letter to the BMC to repair three roads in my area which are full of potholes. The BMC only agreed to carry out work on Babu Kamalkant Singh road near Saat Rasta and a tender for the same was passed two months back. However, no work ever took place. My requests to repair K L Desai Road and Shahid Amar Sheikh Road were never considered. Even the footpaths are full of gaps.

Ratna Mahale, NCP
Ratna Mahale, NCP
I have complained about the roads to the BMC on numerous occasions but no action was taken. Since the past eight months, road-widening work has been taking place at Dr Annie Besant Road near Lovegrove pumping station in Worli. However, the work still hasn’t been completed. This has caused serious traffic issues. The work was given to a blacklisted contractor.

BMCspeak
Ajoy Mehta, Municipal Commisioner
Ajoy Mehta, Municipal Commisioner
I am not aware of the issue. I will enquire with the concerned departments.

Sanjay Darade, Deputy Chief Engineer, Roads (City)
We had a meeting with the corporators. I don’t want to comment on the issue.

Despite repeated attempts, Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas and Ward Officer (G/South) Keshav Ubale remained unavailable for comment.

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