Mumbai: After 4 years, Dr. Ambedkar road in Parel is still work in progress
As blacklisted contractor gets one more extension to complete the concretisation of Parel's Dr Ambedkar Road, questions arise about the perennial delays
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road may have narrowly missed out on being Mumbai's longest road but has earned a different, dubious distinction: the city's longest running road project. Nearly four years on, the 8-km road's concretisation is still unfinished. Interestingly, the contractor is RK Madhani and Company, which was blacklisted in the multi-crore road scam in 2017.
A fortnight ago, the BMC pushed the deadline for the concretisation of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road to May 2019, which will mark over four years since the beginning of the project — the longest any contractor has taken to complete work on a single road in the BMC's history. This is the second time the civic body has had to grant an extension for the road work, and with just six months to go, the contractor still has 40 per cent of the work left to do. Civic officials from the Roads department said the work order was issued to RK Madhani and Company on December 9, 2014, at a cost of R113 crore, and it was supposed to be completed by January 2017.
They were granted their first extension till January this year, another deadline they failed to adhere to. "Around 15 days ago, another extension was granted to them till May 2019. Since their work was progressing at a slow pace, we had slapped a fine of R4 lakh last year. We have paid them 50 per cent of their fee, and we will deduct the penalty from the remaining amount," said a senior official from the department, who also claimed that the delay had not resulted in cost escalation.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road was supposed to be concretised by January 2017, but is still unfinished
Subpar work at junctions
But the slow pace of work is not the only problem with the project. Local residents aren't happy with the manner in which the work is being carried out either. Nikhil Desai, Matunga resident and social activist, said that while the road is being concretised, the junctions at King's Circle in Sion and Dadar TT are being paved with mastic asphalt (better than regular asphalt but nowhere near as long lasting as concrete). "The Dadar TT junction sees heavy traffic on a daily basis and is also a regular water-logging spot. It doesn't make sense to not concretise the stretch as has been done at Worli. The BMC isn't concretising it so that they can continue to hand out more [road repair] contracts to these tainted companies," Desai alleged.
Ironically, when asked about this, the senior official from the Roads department said, "Concretising the junctions will take too much time." Desai further objected to the BMC's decision to give two extensions for the same project to a contractor that is already tainted by corruption. "If the BMC has already blacklisted RK Madhani for shoddy work, and has fined them for it as well, why would they continue to allow them to work? The BMC should terminate the contract, even if they have to pay a fee for it. They should have nothing to do with these cheating contractors," he said, adding that concretising the road is pointless if the work continues endlessly, leaving one stretch or another of the road dug up at all times.
The other side
When contacted, Vishal Madhani, spokesperson for the contractor, blamed the Hydraulic Engineering (HE) department and Traffic Police for the delay. "There were other works taken up by the HE department that took eight months or the entire season last year. Then, we couldn't excavate the road, since the [traffic] police didn't give us permission for it," he said. When asked about the penalty slapped by the BMC last year, he said he wasn't aware of the reason for it. The Roads department official added, "We have received all permissions from the Traffic Police now, and if all goes well then the remaining work should be complete in another seven months," he said.
Among longest roads
At 8 km, the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road is one of the city's longest roads, and is certainly the lengthiest in the island city. It crosses three wards: F-North, F-South and E wards. It also features major junctions such as King's Circle in Sion and the Dadar TT Circle.
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