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 .......