Potholes on Mumbai roads: Profit for some, loss for others

Jul 25, 2014, 09:54 IST | Maleeva Rebello

While commuters and vehicle owners complain about potholes in the city, mechanics and garage owners are enjoying good business, thanks to them

For Manish Singh taking his son to kindergarden via PL Lokhande Marg, Chembur is challenging. He says, “I pick and drop my son to his nursery by bike. Since the monsoon started, I continuously pray as I ride my bike.

Financially too, potholes in the city are making many people suffer. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Financially too, potholes in the city are making many people suffer. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Some days ago, a rickshaw got stuck in a pothole which caused my bike to crash into it, as I was riding behind it. Fortunately, I was riding at a slow speed, so there wasn't much impact.”

Vehicle damage
Bad roads have caused Singh to fall off his bike and get injured on a number of occasions. He says, “There are as many as 30 to 40 potholes on PL Lokhande Marg. However, carefully you ride, the bike takes a beating.

Potholes are causing taxi and rickshaw drivers a lot of stress. Pics/Satyajit Desai
Potholes are causing taxi and rickshaw drivers a lot of stress. Pics/Satyajit Desai

I have spent more than Rs 5,000 in the last month on punctures and dents. This monsoon, I've fallen at least two or three times from the bike. Potholes are a big danger to life.” Hospitality professional Ralf Remedios’s car bumper has numerous dents thanks to potholes in the city.

He says, “From Mahakhali to the Western Express Highway at Andheri, the road is like a desert safari because of the potholes. The drive is a huge pain and the traffic on the road, makes matters worse. What should be a 10 minute drive ends up taking more than an hour.”

Vehicle owners also are in the same boat, thanks to potholes
Vehicle owners also are in the same boat, thanks to potholes

Remedios is keeping repairing his car for after the monsoon as he says, “I don't want to repair the dent now and end up spending Rs 5,000 to 10,000 on maintenance as the roads are not improving. After spending so much, I am sure there will be another dent in less than a day.”

Perpetual repair needs
Jugal Pathak, Malad resident says, “My car is perpetually at the garage as the potholes cause a lot of bodywork damage. From flat tyres to bumper trouble, I am literally fed up of dropping and picking my car from the garage.”

Shifa Meerza Kishor Jain
Shifa Meerza and Kishor Jain

A similar story is that of Chetan Jha, Sion resident who ends up spending around Rs 40,000 on vehicle repairs during the monsoon thanks to the numerous potholes on the city roads.

Jha says, “Potholes not being fixed in the city burn a hole in my pocket, literally. I own two cars and a bike; maintaining these in the rains is a huge task.

Manish Singh Ralf Remedios
Manish Singh and Ralf Remedios

Even though I have my own transport, I often commute by public transport during the rainy season to avoid damage to my bike and car. But getting a taxi or a rickshaw in the city is another issue in itself.”

For garage owner Ravindra Singh, the monsoon means his workshop in Andheri always has people coming to fix their vehicles that get affected by the rains and are damaged by pothole wear and tear.

“In the past few years, there has been a great increase in the number of vehicles that have come for repairs to us. During the monsoon, I end up making a profit of around Rs 80,000 to a lakh more than I do when it is not raining. My wife calls the rains a blessing for our monthly earnings.”

Similar views are expressed by Jayesh Painter, a mechanic who works at a garage in Ghatkopar. He says, “During the rains, instead of working on three to four vehicles per day, I end up working on seven to eight. My boss employs more people as we get a large number of vehicles that come for repairs.

Tyre work gets done quickly and anyone can do that, but when it comes to bumpers, undercar parts and bike bodywork; our garage has only a few specialists who end up getting overworked. But this time also means huge tips and extra money for overtime." “Tyres issues and bumps on the vehicle body work are common complaints that we have to deal with. Monsoon means good business but also more work,” adds Singh.

Transport nuisance
Shifa Meerza finds it difficult to get a rickshaw from Marol Naka metro station. She says, “The stretch near Marol fire brigade is filled with numerous potholes. Many rickshaw drivers refuse to take me saying that the road spoils their vehicles.”

The story of the road has been the same for a number of years says the Marol resident. She adds, “The road was in a bad condition when the metro work was on and we thought that after the metro is ready things will improve. Now that the metro is running, the same problem persists. The road is in a worse condition than last year and comparatively the potholes are much bigger in size.”

Getting a taxi from Lalbaug to Zaveri Bazaar for Kishor Jain has become a nuisance. The businessman says, “Taxi drivers always say no as soon as I say that I want to go to Zaveri Bazaar.

On a daily basis I have to face a minimum of two to three refusals. I generally ride my bike to work but during the monsoon, I avoid it as I have slipped and suffered some injuries on a number of occasions.”

While walking on the road too, the potholes prove to be a menace for Jain who has had muck splashed on him. The 46-year-old says, “I like my clothes to be clean and dry but the monsoon makes that difficult. The potholes add to my woes as speeding cars and buses often splash muck on me.”

Stressed finances
Explaining why he opts to refuse fares on potholed roads, Shivmani Prasad, a rickshaw driver in the Western suburbs says, “We are already poor and the monsoon thanks to potholes cause more damage to our monthly income.

If water enters the rickshaw or there is any tyre or bodywork damage, the rickshaw owner makes me pay for it from my pockets. It is better to avoid going on roads that are bad.

I don’t want to end up paying Rs 5,000 to 10,000 for a fare of Rs 50 or even 100." Agreeing with Prasad, Mohammed Khan, a rickshaw driver at Mulund says, “The rickshaw fares are low in the first place meaning that we hardly make any profits.

Add to this the financial blow we get if something goes wrong with the vehicle. Potholes are causing us a lot of monetary problems. It is better to refuse as the loss is less as compared to the one I have to face incase something goes wrong with the rickshaw.”

Taxi driver, Bhahadur Bhushan says, “Potholed roads and bumpy rides have caused my taxi to breakdown three times already. There was this time that I had compassion and took an old couple, but after that I had to suffer a breakdown. For helping people we don't get extra money.

I am a person who thinks from the business perspective. After spending almost Rs 7,000 on my taxi maintenance so far, my savings have been depleted. I have a family to support and provide for. Saying no is better than this repair hassle and financial loss.”

How to avoid potholes
>> Steer clear of potholes. 
>> Leave space between you and the vehicles ahead. This helps spot potholes and gives enough time to avoid them. 
>> Pay special attention to potholes filled with water, which can be dangerous, because their depth is not known until it's too late. 
>> Driving slowly can minimise the damage to your vehicle if you hit a pothole. 
>> Don't slam the brakes. Hitting the brakes tilts the vehicle forward and puts extra stress on the front suspension.

Vehicle damage to look out for
>> The vehicle rolls or sways on turns. 
>> The front-end dives when braking. 
>> The rear end squats when accelerating. 
>> The vehicle bounces or slides sideways on a winding, rough road.
>> The vehicle thumps on bumps. 
>> The vehicle sits lower in the front or rear. 
>> The vehicle is leaking or has signs of physical damage, such as rusting or dents. 
>> There's a loss of directional control during sudden stops.
>> There is a balance issue.

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