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Bracing for Monsoon

Slow pre-monsoon works increase risks of flooding

Monsoon is round the corner but the authorities, particularly the public works and water resources departments and local self governing bodies, are still grappling with pre-monsoon works. The authorities have attributed the delay in completing the works to model code of conduct being in force. Though the state authorities were aware of the prevalence of the MCC, it was only on May 7 that they wrote to Election Commission of India seeking relaxation for completion of works. The ECI accorded its approval of the request of the state authorities on May 18. Every year these agencies lag behind in completing pre-monsoon works and yet do not learn from their mistakes. The government has been setting May 15, every year as the deadline for digging of roads, so that they could be restored in time before the onset of monsoon. Digging and cutting of roads for completion of various works can be seen still going on at many places.  The government must set a strict timeframe by which pre-monsoon works must be completed. Fortunately for state authorities the arrival of monsoon has been delayed by more than a week. They should seize the opportunity and ensure that the works are executed on war footing and completed before the monsoon sets in.

Flooding of roads and low-lying areas has been a major concern during monsoons throughout the state and the problem has been getting compounded with every passing year. Flooding is usually owing to the failure of authorities to clear the drains and nullahs as also unplanned development and indiscriminate filling up of low-lying areas. The topography of the state does not make it prone to flooding, and still there have been scores of instances of flooding, which is more in urban areas when often sewage-laced water and silt inundate houses. Normal life gets disrupted. There are accidents and traffic jams. There is incidence of diseases as a result of water accumulation. Though the authorities announce commencement of pre-monsoon works as early as January every year, hardly anything is done to complete them in time. They start works in a hurry when the monsoon hits the state. It is not uncommon to see that the silt removed from drains is left for days on the road, which subsequently makes it back to the drains. Besides, there are also cases of shoddy workmanship, particularly with regards to road works, which get washed away with the first showers that lash the state.

Many of the urban and rural local bodies have been found to be lagging behind, with some completing merely 10 per cent of pre-monsoon works. The government has directed them to complete the works before monsoon sets it. It remains to be seen whether they would be able to cope with the huge backlog with the time running out. Now that the elections are over as also the ECI has relaxed the code for pre-monsoon works, the government should closely monitor the works so that people do not suffer because of lethargy of the authorities. As the time to complete the works is short, the government should allow the local bodies to engage additional manpower and give them additional funds for completion of works.

Pre-monsoon works are an area of work which the concerned authorities have to do every year. They should have a plan ready.  They must draw a calendar well in advance for executing pre-monsoon works. It has been alleged that works are delayed purposely till the last moment as it allows corrupt elements among officials to manipulate records and make money. The officials of the concerned departments and local bodies should be held responsible in case they fail to adhere to calendar. The Election Commission should also appreciate that pre-monsoon works are not held up owing to the model code of conduct being in force. Though this happens twice in five years, during assembly and parliamentary elections, there is need to find a solution to it, so that works are not help up in the future. Why should the state authorities need to seek special permission when the works are routine?

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