For several months now, citizens have been asking the government to look into the state of roads in the city.

Hyderabads killer roads City corporation has a corruption problem and thats risking livesImage: Twitter/GHMC
news Infrastructure Sunday, October 23, 2016 - 14:35

Bora Arun Kumar was not drunk on the pillion, and neither was K Somashekar who was driving the bike. They were not driving rashly. It was a major city road with regular traffic. And yet, Arun died, after a scooter ahead of their bike applied brakes suddenly to avoid falling into a crater near the Kukatpally Y-junction, and Somashekar slammed the brakes too. Arun flew off the bike and died instantly.

Arun was just 25-years old, and was on his way to his tutorials. If not for that pothole on the road, he could have been alive today.

Read - Hyderabad’s killer roads claim another life, 25-year-old dies due to pothole

Immediately after his death on Friday, a blame-game ensued between the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), which is responsible for roads in the city, and the Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMR), which was handed over that road temporarily due to metro-rail construction. The HMR has grudgingly acknowledged their responsibility and finally agreed to repair the road.

Since September, Arun is the third person to have lost his life to the killer roads of Hyderabad. Last month, a 31-year-old software engineer died when he was returning home from work and hit the divider at Road No 2 in Banjara Hills while trying to avoid a pothole. That same week, a woman died due to potholes near Jeedimetla after she fell off her husband's scooter and a bus ran over her.

For several months now, Hyderabad citizens have been asking the government to look into the poor state of roads in the state's capital. Many major roads in the city are still broken and in dire need of repairs.

Hyderabad’s roads have started creating health problems too. Reports state that motorists as young as in their 20s have been complaining of back problems, while older commuters are becoming increasingly prone to hypertension and high blood pressure.

Even flyovers across the city have become dangerous to ride, especially at night, as pothole visibility is low. The New Indian Express reported that close to the 30 flyovers and bridges in the city were in a deplorable condition.

But here is what is disturbing. The roads are bad not just because of government’s regular inefficiencies. The GHMC has a corruption problem, and it is risking lives.

On the day Arun lost his life, the GHMC ordered a probe into alleged bogus bills filed by contractors for road repair works carried out in the city.

“There are allegations that the contractors who were asked to lay bituminous tar (BT) roads, have submitted bills without doing the work. Our quality control wing and the vigilance department will inspect these areas and verify the allegations,” GHMC Commissioner Janardhan Reddy was quoted as saying.

Mayor Bonthu Rammohan also held a high level review meeting and said, “Lack of coordination among line departments in providing information on roads is hampering the road restoration works."

Subhash Singh, Chief Engineer (Maintenance) in the GHMC's Engineering wing which is responsible for the quality of roads, says that the municipal body is ensuring multiple levels of scrutiny to check for quality.

"We have undertaken some immediate special repairs. 489 works were sanctioned at the cost of Rs 75 crore. We have strict orders that no work can take place without the presence of a field engineer from the GHMC," Singh tells TNM.

He also adds, "To check quality, the department has a Quality Control Wing, which checks the quality of the material during and after work. We also have a third-party quality control mechanism where another team goes and checks the material during and after work."

(GHMC Mayor Bonthu Ram Mohan during a surprise inspection. Image: Facebook/GHMC)

There are few takers for this explanation, because these are not isolated allegations.

Last month, Anti-Corruption Bureau officials stated that the GHMC was the third most corrupt body in the city, with 24 GHMC officials arrested since 2011.

Lok Satta party general secretary GS Sambi Reddy, who unearthed a Rs 100 crore scam ahead of the GHMC elections last year, says that corruption occurs at various levels. And with officials allegedly being a part of the loot, greedy contractors who do a shoddy job are given a free pass, he says.

"One person or company will apply for multiple tenders under different names, which is against the rules. During the work, there are things they have to ensure, like removing a layer of the existing road to ensure that it is even. However, they just pour a layer of mud over the existing road to fill the holes and lay a new road over it," Sambi Reddy tells TNM.

This is may have caused the large sinkhole that appeared at NTR Marg during the recent rains, as mud that is poured to even a road, has a high chance of caving in.

"When they keep doing it, the result, as you can see in many places in the city, is that there is a large gap between the road and the space beside it," Reddy adds.

Reddy also dismisses the explanation given by Subash Singh. "Earlier, the GHMC used to run the quality control tests with Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), but now it has given that job also to private companies, which leads to less transparency." 

Singh, However, denies the recent allegations of corruption. 

"The GHMC website showed a faulty list, where it claimed that work was completed in certain areas when it wasn't. People have confused that with the payment to these contractors. We have not paid any of them," Singh says.

"We also have multiple checks and layers of scrutiny before payment is done to any contractor," Singh added.

Sambi Reddy says that there is hard proof to show that the GHMC has been letting faulty contractors go scot-free for too long.

"The GHMC has a policy that ensures action within three days of a complaint. However, last year, we found more than 8,000 complaints that were pending over a period of four to five months," Sambi Reddy says.

"The GHMC had a budget of Rs 5,550 crore for 2015-16, and at least Rs 2,300 crore is said to have been spent on repair and maintenance of roads. Even if you consider the division-wise expenditure, it is really high. They have also bought a lot of 'modern equipment' and vehicles with the taxpayers’ money. Despite that, is this the best we can do?" Reddy asks.

 

 

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