Government agencies must stop blaming monsoon and be honest to accept the blame
Every road in the state, be it national highway, state highway, main district road or village road, is riddled with cracks and potholes. The hazardous road conditions make driving difficult and are one of the main reasons for accidents. They also cause congestion as vehicles move haphazardly in order to bypass the potholes and cracks. Year after year Goans are promised better roads by the government but their conditions only go on getting worse and worse, especially during monsoon. Public complaints of dangerous road conditions and media reports and photographs of the hazards do not appear to bother the government. Though roads are repaired every year and huge amounts spent on laying new carpets citizens who pay taxes have to live with potholed roads. New or repaired roads crack up or sink in places with every monsoon and citizens are forced to negotiate hazardous roads, risking their lives, for four months till the end of monsoon.
Citizens of Goa and rest of India are not conscious enough of their road safety rights, else they would have sued the authority concerned – the public works department, the National Highway Authority of India or other authorities – for compensation if they suffered any personal casualty owing to hazardous conditions of roads. Government agencies are responsible for maintaining roads; they have to make sure that the roads are safe for drivers and pedestrians. It is one of the primary duties of the government to construct and maintain safe roads. However, the Goa government authorities have been totally indifferent to risks to the life of citizens owing to hazardous road conditions. Bad road conditions have often been discussed in the state Assembly with the government promising to provide strong, smooth and safe roads. In the last session of the Assembly members across party lines came down heavily on the government, which eventually got out by promising good roads. The government promised to fill the potholes immediately to provide relief to drivers. Though potholes were filled in some places they got washed away in the rain making them more dangerous than before. It is not only the citizens of Goa who are victims of hazardous roads but also lakhs of tourists who come here. The tourists carry bad memories of the state because of bad road conditions and blame the state government authorities for spoiling their holidays.
Bad road conditions are primarily owing to poor planning and execution. When government agencies know very well that the state faces four months of monsoon they should build roads that can stand heavy and incessant rain. There is no lack of technical expertise in NHAI or PWD for anticipating what kind of pressures monsoon brings upon the surface and the depth of roads. The fault might lie in poor standards of construction which can be owing to poor or conniving monitoring and supervision that allows the contractors to get away with substandard constructions. Even roads constructed or reconstructed or repaired before monsoon develop potholes and cracks during the monsoon. Pothole filling is another shoddy piece of work. A filling done today is gone in a few days. A second filling is done and that is gone in a few days. Fillings add to the problems of drivers and pedestrians crossing the roads. The public never hears of engineers and contractors being punished for giving citizens hazardous roads – even though they are doubly responsible: first, for giving dangerous roads and second, causing loss of lives or injuries and damage to vehicles as a result.
The state government agencies cannot get away by blaming rains for potholes. Goa receives rains for four months every year. The government agencies have to be prepared for it. They have to find ways to cope with it. It is a matter of shame if the civil engineers in the top echelons of government agencies were to go on finding the scapegoat in monsoon. The government must fix responsibility and take action against those responsible for hazardous conditions of the roads. Roads are the foundation of infrastructure. It plays a key role in the development of a state. It facilitates public and private transport that supports businesses and a happy life for people.