Tuesday, October 09, 2012

PotHole City !

On Oct 3, 2012, the Hindustan Times reported that there were only 106 potholes left to be filled on Mumbai's roads.  To be absolutely exact , out of the  24,736 potholes reported,  24,630 potholes had been filled !  

The same day, I traveled 15 kilometres  from a western suburb to my home, and I suspect I actually detected all of them , at the rough rate of 7 to 8 potholes per kilometre.  Which implies that the roads in the rest of Mumbai are as smooth as,  to quote a politician, actress  Hema Mailini's cheeks.  This may be true of Hema Malini's cheeks, but is simply untrue  in the case of the remaining Mumbai roads.

Even the so called protected green areas like Aarey Colony are not spared. Here, even the leopards feel the impact. Mr  Borade, 44, an employee of the Colony Office, was riding his bike at a decent speed, keeping to the sides of the road, since there were huge potholes elsewhere on the stretch of road. He suddenly intersected with a leopard , possibly trying to cross the road, pressed both brakes in shock, fell down, the leopard got a bit entangled . Both Mr Borade and the leopard were hurt.  The matter is said to have been reported to the forest office. No one says anything about the pothole/roads  office.

 Thanks to many factors apart from the scientifically evaluatable ones,  filling of the potholes on Mumbai's roads, the monsoons, and the subsequent washing away of the  carefully placed wash-and-wear fillings, all under the shut-eye of someone looking the other way, has ensured that potholes is an ongoing thing in the history and geography of Mumbai.

So many shows are then conducted . Road contractors are fined. Road contractors are banned.  Fancy machines  worth crores are ordered, because , they can do a sort of on-line fixing of potholes, with some special mix.  Committees are appointed with learned folks from institutions  to evaluate and advise.  They prepare reports.  Seminars happen. By this time another monsoon comes around. New potholes, new promises, new fillings , and the stuff continues ad infinitum.

Someone has now initiated a real time uploading of pothole pictures to guide the civic body.  While this may result in several hefty purchases of PC's and laptops, the main imbalance is in the megahertz speeds of uploading , and the  mega days and mega months required to award contracts, do the work, and pay the contractors. 

The latest is the concept of pothole audit.  The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has an online portal for citizens to report potholes.  25 % of these will be randomly chosen for audit after October 1, 2012.  Contractors will be taken to task wherever required, and work will be done.

I have a question.  

It is not as if the potholes on other roads are keeping quiet while an audit is happening.  Even if a simple exercise of counting potholes is conducted by the MCGM,  potholes will be constantly be appearing somewhere, while they are being counted somewhere else.

Should a research study estimate the rate of increase in potholes vis-a-vis  time ?  Should it involve the past records ?   While this data will differ based on the various parts of Mumbai, can we come up with a simulation that can predict  the rate of increase of potholes, and where this might happen ?  Can this take into account the differing technologies for pothole filling , possibly used in different parts of Mumbai , at the same time ?  Can someone  fit a polynomial to the amazing graphs, and  predict future potholes and solutions?  And publish this so the MCGM 's work will be cut out well in advance?   (You can always act tough and ban Google from introducing its latest pothole map thing, Google Hole...)......

For each area, the reasons for potholes will range from  rainwater amidst old overloaded storm drains, excessive truck traffic stopping at road junctions,  surreptitious material usage for road building and many other causes. At this point we still ignore the random digging and replacement of road surfaces by the Utility companies.   This begs for judicious decision making suitable for each area.   

And it is not just the road traffic. Pedestrians have also had to face uneven pavements,  suddenly open manholes, or slowly happening potholes, assorted grill type things precariously placed over  holes, not to mention trash sculptures. 

I just wonder if a solution exists. Other than getting powerful dignitaries to constantly visit all over Mumbai, which is the only reason, roads get cleaned, holes get covered, and  potholes get filled up with alacrity. 

Maybe  we need to think out of the box.  Or should I say, pothole .....

Why not declare Mumbai a City of Potholes ? Like Jaipur is called The Pink City, Mumbai can be referred to as the "Pothole City".

For some , the introduction will begin at the runway itself, as the pilot strives to  navigate over  potholes. Folks arriving in the city by various modes like air, train etc, can then possibly buy back-supports and neck supports, specially created for them, and sold at airports and stations.   Like helmets and seat belts, these can be made compulsory for cars, while being completely ignored in buses.

Government can even subsidize the folks manufacturing these.  The various India Fashion Weeks, can even come up with  designer supports for the neck and back, and models can walk the ramp with these , in step with music that replicates Mumbai traffic, complete with police whistles and stuff. Page-3  types can pose in  Varun Jahiliani  neck pieces, and Chanchal Bodericks  back supports.

For those of us that don't spend all our lives on four or even two wheels,  the main concern would be appropriate footwear.  Those insisting on heels and stuff would have the option of switching to wheels, coming up in the world, or both.   Those manufacturing sports shoes will come up with a special version called Pothole Shoes, with Nike coming up with a new logo of a tick mark in a pothole.  Naturally, this will give a big fillip to the footwear industry.  (Possibility of a  subsequent ruckus in Parliament on "FDI in Footwear" cannot be denied....)

There are always  those in the non-wheel proletariat who do not listen to the voice of reason, and are convinced, that  blue jeans always need to be paired with heels of the pointy type.  You could have warnings on roadsides saying  "wearing of heels with point diameter less that  the grill separation on the manhole cover is injurious to your health", but like in the case of cigarettes, it will fall on deaf ears, and blind eyes.

But really.  Why blame the users ?  Those that are supposed to maintain roads are so out of sync with the requirements of the citizens.

Maybe its genetic. And happens everywhere.

In a campus comprising of virgin green and original inhabitants in the form of wild cattle that more or less have roaming rights, an effort was made to  construct gates with what is known as "cattle guards" ;  a set of grills installed as part of the road surface at the gates . This way,  vehicles can rumble over the metal grills noisily, the gates can be kept open  during office and other prescribed hours , and  cattle would  not cross over the grill, for fear of getting their hooves caught in it.

Like the  MCGM and the potholes,  someone must have failed to estimate correctly the size of the bovine hooves, or even after correct estimation, someone must have ignored the installation of the  wrong-grill-interval-cattle guard. 

Today, while cars and two wheelers change gears and rumble over the metal grill plates, and slow down, assorted lumbering powerful bovine folks, sometimes with frisky offspring , are seen casually crossing over, confidently placing their hooves on the grill, chewing the cud avidly , as they enter the academic area.

Well. The Right to Education cannot be denied .......




  1. Potholes should be named after other kinds of holes ---> our politicians!

    1. Ha ha ha - that is the best line I have heard all year. Love it. Thanks for making me smile

  2. I think it is the same all over the world albeit you may have a few more potholes than I have encountered here. I guess the government has put its best statisticians on the job and they are counting potholes like they do the deficit - losing a few vital numbers along the way. Thanks for a great post. I love reading your writing because it always makes me think the World is very small when all is said and done.

  3. Mumbai is the Pothole Capital of India [perhaps the world]!

    Great post! I hope some of our politicians read it....

  4. Bangalore is much worse than Mumbai. It is the same disgusting state in all our cities. Our government has been in cold storage since almost 4 years now :(. And, all civic agencies are comatose.

  5. Well they are correct -- 106 potholes left on Mumbai's "roads" -- the rest of the places we travel on cannot rightfully be defined as "roads" :)

  6. I suppose Times counted potholes only from one road- theirs! Many people unfortunately have this limited world-view. Pothole audit is a good concept - but what will happen to the audit report?

  7. Every pothole is a story of corruption.We all know it,but,are so helpless.
    I was in Bangalore the other day.It is as bad as it is in Mumbai.
    Its disgusting.

  8. .... and I remember the days when the Bombay (sorry Mumbay) roads were washed early in the morning when I go to fetch the milk from the milk booth.

  9. Hi Ugich
    Do you think that Pot Holes could be infectious and travel underground from PotHole City to replicate and pop up here ? We've had quite a rash of them of late
    As well as special gear to alleviate pothole suffering perhaps children could be involved and take part in sponsored searches to find the deepest,widest, closest ??? The winners could choose and keep a Pothole of their very own