No accountability of road contractors and engineers who certify their works
THE High Court of Bombay at Goa has directed the state government to file an affidavit on steps taken to repair the pothole-ridden roads in the state. The plea of the government that potholes could not be repaired owing to continuous rains is untenable. That covers up the main question, which is that why do potholes develop in the roads. Potholes claimed a life at Banastarim in late September. There are scores of accidents caused due to potholes that go unreported as the victims do want to get embroiled in fight with the state administration. Actually, citizens who pay taxes out of which the government builds roads have a right to demand action against poor quality of roads. The government must set up a mechanism for citizens to lodge complaints about bad roads.
Not a single road in the state is free from potholes. The government promised to fill the potholes within 15 days early in September, a promise that was not kept. Barring a few roads most others continue to be riddled with potholes, making negotiating the roads difficult for the motorists. Pothole filling works have been carried out on at least two occasions since monsoon began in various parts of the state. The filling apparently was done haphazardly leading to potholes surfacing again and again. The money spent on filling the potholes have gone down the drains and none appears to have been held accountable for the superficial workmanship. It is possible that old roads could develop potholes. But it is sad to note that even the newly constructed roads are riddled with potholes. The poor condition of new roads is an indication that their quality was compromised during construction by contractors and the supervising engineers. There is no accountability for contractors and the engineers who certify the roads constructed as works done in accordance with standards and specifications.
Now that monsoon has ended, the public works department should get going and restore the roads at the earliest. While works on repairs of roads go on, it is necessary that the responsibility for poor road construction be fixed for the works done in the past three years and all the contractors and engineers concerned be taken to task. Failure on the part of the government to act against those responsible for poor quality of workmanship has emboldened the officials and contractors, and as a result endangered human lives. We do not know how serious the warning of Public Works Department Minister Deepak Pauskar is when he threatens road contractors that the government will file cases against them if they fail to repair the roads by December in accordance with their contract agreement, which requires them to do the maintenance of the roads constructed by them for a certain period. According to Pauskar, 55 contractors were awarded contracts for hot mixing of roads from 2018 onwards and since the roads are under maintenance warranty it is the responsibility of the contractors to restore the roads as per the clauses in the contract agreement.
The citizens will closely watch how the contractors bound by maintenance agreement respond to the PWD Minister’s warning. Despite the knowledge that potholes were an annual phenomenon during monsoon the PWD failed to take preventive steps. As potholes can be life threatening it is necessary that roads constructed should last at least for five years without repairs. It is necessary that road engineering is taken to higher level to prevent recurrence of potholes. Road construction norms should also take into account the specific situation of Goa which has a very large vehicle population and a very high growth rate of vehicle population. The roads of the state must be of such quality as can bear the loads, pressures and movements of the vast number of vehicles. The contractors cannot escape responsibility by pleading that the PWD allots road works to the lowest bidder and in order to get works they have to scale down their bids, which ultimately means compromise on the quality of construction. The PWD must allot contracts on the basis of realistic assessments of costs and profits for contractors in order to make them accountable for road quality and road maintenance for three to five years.