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Mayor Versus Potholes

All signs suggest Panaji is Turning into a foolish city

THE mayor of Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) Uday Madkaikar has made a very big promise: the capital’s roads will be rid of all potholes once the elections are over. It is a task the citizens of Panaji and visitors to the city have been hoping for years for the CCP mayor to undertake. Madkaikar has made a chain of promises: the city will have no flooding during monsoons; CCTVs would be installed to keep an eye on the manner of garbage disposal by residents; there would be surveillance on encroachment of pavements by shopkeepers and on use of plastic bags. The mayor has warned that digging or cutting of roads by different agencies would have to be wound up by April 30, a deadline that would not be extended even by a day. What is more, Madkaikar has also threatened to levy stiff penalties on violators. The residents of the city will eagerly wait for the elections to end to see how many of the promises are fulfilled by the mayor. He makes it sound like tasks his predecessors never had the courage, will or drive to undertake. He should better ask them why they could not do it.  He would be then able to understand the problems better. He could be given credit if he manages to remove the obstacles his predecessors faced in making Panaji a fine city.

Panaji is forever plagued by bumps and potholes on roads owing to ceaseless diggings and cuttings. The agencies involved seldom bother to restore the dug parts to their original level. Almost every road in the city has been dug or cut for laying water or gas pipelines or cables. The last thing the government knows is coordination in undertaking works. One government department or private agency digs the road, fills it indifferently, and a few months later, another government department or private agency digs the road and fills it even more indifferently. Roads are often cut on either side, making it risky for motorists and pedestrians alike.  With uneven repairs or patchworks motorists prefer to use the middle part of the roads to avoid bumpy drives, hindering smooth flow of traffic. The earth dug out is seldom cleared, with the result that volumes of mud go into the drains and clog them causing flooding of the roads during monsoon. The utter lack of coordination among government departments and very poor supervision of filling of the dug-up stretches are two major problems that make the lives of residents of Panaji difficult and risky. Has the mayor of Panaji powers to drive the government departments to do their digging in a coordinated manner?

Panaji is being developed as a smart city under the Smart City Mission of the central government. Some of the ‘development works’ carried out under the mission at huge costs have been more a mockery and waste than any proofs of smartness of the capital. There is no coordination between the CCP and Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Ltd, which is executing the developmental projects. IPSCDL chose to keep the CCP and other government departments in the dark, forcing the North Goa collector to issue stop work orders. The CCP mayor threatened to stall all works unless IPSCDL gave him the list of works undertaken by them. If the special purpose vehicle for the Smart City Mission refuses to take the elected government of the city along, the result can be an arrogant and foolish Panaji, not a cooperative and wise Panaji. The city will be a mirror image of the arrogant and dimwit special purpose vehicle! The CCP should have been the nodal agency for coordination, but there is a power game between those who control IPSCDL and those who rule the CCP, so the city blunders on directionlessly.

To come back to the mayor’s pothole promise, he has to start making a map of the city with the potholes marked. He has time to do that with data from every ward, every street, every lane. He has to check if his machinery is fit to execute pothole-filling works. The residents will watch how the potholes are filled. If the work is shoddy, Mayor Madkaikar should be ready to face mud flung at him.

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