CONTRACTOR IS KING
That Explains The State Of Mumbai’s Roads; BMC Contractors Have Devised A Fool-Proof System Of Beating Every Rule In The Book That Seeks To Give You Pothole-Free Roads .....Clara Lewis | TNN
Mumbai: The BMC’s best, it seems, is not good enough.
The civic agency, in the last two years, has improved 200 kms of arterial roads in an integrated fashion (where underground utilities have been first attended to). But several of these roads still do not meet the standards set by the BMC’s own Standing Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), BMC-appointed quality auditors have said.
The BMC has budgeted more than Rs 3,600 crore on improving roads in the last decade. But Mumbai’s roads — be it the Western Express Highway or the roads leading into neighbourhoods from important thoroughfares — do not seem to have gained from these crores; the surface still peels off every monsoon. So where does all the money go?
Well, much of it goes to contractors who are responsible for upkeep of roads. Contractors, of course, spend some of the money on mending roads but often do it in such a way that their services have to be requisitioned after a few months, say BMC officials. But contractors do not get to pocket all the money they save; a part of this money has to be funnelled to a section of politicians and officials who decide BMC contracts. “Palms have to be greased. Every political party in the BMC standing committee has to be paid off to ensure a contract goes through,’’ a BMC official said. The road department every year identifies roads it will improve in the next financial year. The budget is approved by the standing committee, which often makes changes in the way money will be spent. “Contractors often tell standing committee members where the money should be deployed and last-minute changes are done according to their wishes,’’ a standing committee member said.
But the plans do not succeed without compliant officials; so palms have to be greased again to ensure there is no proper check on the materials used. “The BMC deploys no technical person at contractors’ plants. Random samples are collected and sent to the laboratory for checks but the site engineer may pick the samples selectively,’’ an official said.
All this has forced the BMC to mull upping the cost of a project (a bouquet of roads) to a minimum of Rs 50 crore from the present Rs 5 crore. “Contractors’ bid capacity will then have to be very high and this will help us weed out small-time contractors and go for only reputed companies,’’ a senior BMC official said.
MONEY, MANPOWER DOWN THE (POT)HOLE
Mumbai has 1,941 kms of roads.
Only 150 kms is maintained by MMRDA right now; the rest is maintained by BMC.
The BMC has reserved more than Rs 3,600 crore for maintenance and construction of roads over the last 10 years.
Almost all this money has been spent on maintenance of roads as Mumbai has seen only one entirely new road (Anik-Wadala Road) being constructed in the recent past.
MEN AT WORK
* The BMC machinery at every ward looks after the minor roads; there is a ward officer and a maintenance department (comprising about six engineers) who are responsible for taking care of these roads as well as other civil engineering jobs (like work on sewers and watersupplying pipes).
* The BMC central machinery at the headquarters is responsible for the city’s arterial roads; this set-up is headed by a chief engineer (roads) and comprises about 200 engineers of the roads department.
* The BMC has 105 petty works contractors (for all work, including roads, sewers and water supply).
* There are 24 more contractors — one for each ward — to look after potholes and trenches.
* Besides, there are about 40 other contractors to work on major road projects.