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Accountability for Potholes

Govt should ensure that quality of works is not compromised

The state government does not appear to be serious about making roads smooth by filling potholes in the roads. Patchworks to fill potholes are washed away with the first shower of the monsoon making negotiating them difficult. Very few roads are free from potholes and waterlogging. The state government has failed to deliver on its promise to make roads potholes-free. The authorities wake up only when the media and citizens complain of potholes and direct the officials concerned to repair the roads and clear them of potholes and ensure that there was no waterlogging. As has been practice over the years, this year too, Public Works Department Minister Deepak Pauskar has issued similar directions. Pauskar, however, has sought to blame ongoing highway widening works for waterlogging along roads.

The PWD Minister has promised to appoint two agencies to clear potholes on the state’s roads by the year end. Why have special agencies to be appointed when there is a full-fledged department headed by him to deal with the subject? Does the minister doubt expertise of his own department? Appointment of outside agencies would make the roads division of PWD redundant. The roads division of the PWD should be entrusted with the responsibility to remove the potholes and waterlogging rather than giving the job to another agency. It would be better in larger public interest that the minister sets his house in order and takes measures so that his officials work efficiently and according to the rules. Potholes develop because of shoddy work done by contractors who should be held accountable for pathetic conditions of the roads and made to repair them and remove potholes that develop within five years of construction. Creating more entities would lead to incurring additional and avoidable expenses and hence should be avoided at all costs.

It is surprising to note that the government wants to engage two agencies, in what is claimed to finding permanent solution to problems of potholes. First of all, all the roads, especially the highways (national and state) and main district roads (MDRs) should not develop potholes or other problems from the date of completion of work on them. Secondly, as per the provisions in contracts, every contractor should be liable for repair of roads and removal of potholes within five years of their completion. Given the fact that most of the roads are re-laid every few years, the government should ensure that the contractor who has undertaken work is held liable and made to maintain the roads as per the contract terms. Though provisions exist, the authorities tend to overlook them and hence are not implemented. Besides, tenders are floated for repair of roads which are carried out haphazardly in connivance with officials concerned.

The PWD Minister should note the deliberately clumsy operations in his department and weed out the officials who have not been doing their job to maintain quality standards. Such failures are so common, yet the government has not acted with stern measures and action against those responsible for betraying public interest. It is not that all officials of the PWD are irresponsible and in nexus with unscrupulous contractors but those who are fair in their conduct have been sidelined and given charge of lesser important posts. Pauskar could set the ball rolling by acting against unscrupulous elements in his department and restore public faith in the system. It has been alleged that contactors resort to illegalities and compromise on quality because they have to make provision for paying officials to get contract as well getting certificates of successful completion. It is time that the government roots out these corrupt practices that have set in the system. If officials are held accountable and made to perform as per rules, most of problems would not arise. The government should make sure that every public work is executed in accordance with contract terms and quality should not be compromised.

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