Mumbai: Thane Residents Pledge To Boycott Elections Until Road Quality Improves
The residents of Thane, Mumbai have started a civil protest, #FixRoadsElseNoVotes, against the responsible government agencies, pledging that they will not vote in any election- including municipal corporation and Lok Sabha- until the potholes on the roads are repaired.
The protest is not a political one – the Thanekars are trying to highlight the terrible conditions of the roads in Mumbai during monsoon. Apart from forcing commuters to spend long hours in traffic jams every day, the abundance of potholes has become a huge concern following the deaths of seven people this monsoon due to their two-wheelers losing their balance and falling into such potholes.
The Blinkers Protest
More than a hundred residents will drive from Waghbil Naka on Ghodbunder Road to Airoli Bridge, 17 km away on Friday, with their car lights on throughout the drive. The residents have also formed a group called Road Commuters’ Forum with over 250 members those who are campaigning for their cause on social media with hashtags #FixRoadsElseNoVotes, #Freedom-FromPotholes and #KhaddaChallenge.
“We are using special chemicals that are rain resistant. Most potholes have been filled,” an official from the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) told the Indian Express.
Shiv Sena leader and Kalyan MP Shrikant Shinde, son of Thane’s Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde, said the TMC was doing its best to solve the problem, hiring experts and even inviting the locals to approach the TMC with their suggestions for the same. Eknath Shinde has directed the authorities to fill the potholes before Ganesh Chaturthi.
Similar Protests All Over Mumbai
Residents of Panvel in Navi Mumbai have decided to take a morcha to raise the issue of potholed roads in the area that result in back-breaking rides especially for the elderly and pregnant women. The huge number of potholes have also led to unprecedented traffic jams which leave vehicles crawling on the roads, increasing pollution in the area.
The crater-like potholes on Patni Road that links Thane with Navi Mumbai have left the residents with no choice but to stage a protest on Monday, a move supported by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and condemned by the local political leaders.
MNS along with the fishing community of Airoli held a protest last month by releasing fish into the massive potholes to draw the attention of the authorities. The move forced the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to fill the potholes with grit and stone.
The MNS had organised a long-jump session over large potholes that were named after political leaders by the protestors, over Sion-Panvel Highway on July 9. They also organised a slow scooter race in Kalyan a few days later as a satirical way to highlight the inefficient management of traffic on roads by the authorities. The Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) has also lodged an FIR against the road maintenance firm, however, Public Work Department officials responsible for the Sion-Panvel Highway are yet to take any action.
Why Are There So Many Potholes?
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has accused 32 agencies responsible for utilities in Mumbai, claiming that they dig up the roads to lay down their cables, but fail to properly fill them up after they are done. Some of these agencies, however, including electricity and water suppliers, are actually owned by the BMC themselves, pointing towards lack of systematic planning and poor governance in Mumbai.
Congress blames Shiv Sena, who controls the BMC, for not monitoring the contractors doing the maintenance of roads.
In response to the deaths caused by potholes, the PWD Minister of Maharashtra, Chandrakant Patil said that potholes cannot be blamed entirely for such accidents. On one hand, promising compensation for the families of the deceased, the minister continued his comment saying, “you forget that five lakh other people have travelled on the same road,” as reported by India Today. The comment was slammed by the Congress and citizens alike for being insensitive.
The roads in Mumbai are known for their poor conditions during monsoon every year. The pre-monsoon repair work never starts on time, and hardly any action is taken against the contractors for crossing the deadline, as reported by India Today. The entry of heavy traffic aggravates the situation, increasing the size of the potholes as the materials used to fill them simply comes out.
The Bombay High Court’s Verdict
The Bombay High Court, last month, severely reprimanded the Maharashtra Government for its failure in fulfilling its constitutional obligation of providing pothole-free roads, saying that it was the least they could do for their citizens. The Court also advised the government to first take advice from experts on techniques and materials to be used before starting any maintenance work, to ensure the problem never arises again.
It is our basic human right to have pothole-free roads. It is time our leaders and administrative officials start doing the jobs they have been given. The Logical Indian hopes that government makes sure that the grievances of people are heard and proper action is taken.