The problem of poorly constructed roads is long engraved in India, not only in the rural areas but the issue concerns urban population alike. Potholes, roads under construction, poorly concreted speed breakers and down-and-out drainage system on the roads are a cause of increasing accidents, deaths and health problems in the country and also a source of exasperation, such as during the recent gigantic traffic jam in Gurgaon, in the region of the Indian capital.
According to the law, citizens of India have a legal right to well maintained roads and any loss due to poor road infrastructure can be claimed. But the right is being denied by the authorities ever since its formation as potholes all over the country are a painful reality.
New Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar are among the most affected cities or states where roads are in an utter mess, which resulted in more than 10,000 deaths in the country last year. The government does not prioritise repairs and municipal corporations claim to have a dearth of enough funds for the repairs.
Even after various complaints and campaigns, when the government failed to notice the problem, an artist in Bengaluru placed artificial crocodile in a pothole filled with rainwater to draw the attention of the authorities. In Chennai too, people took to solve the problem. The residents collected money and got the potholes repaired on Pudupakkam High road in the city this June.
Various accidents and even deaths have been reported due to potholes, uneven speed breakers and roads under repair or under construction in the past years, and the numbers are ever increasing. Recently, a 45 year old man died in Vasant Kunj (South West Delhi) after his two wheeler bumped into a pothole. He fell off from his bike because of the immediate jolt and after that a water tanker coming from behind crushed him to death.
A death trap?
The average time for a road to start wear is five years, after which it requires repairs. The low quality material used for construction and sometimes suspected scams could be one of the reasons as the roads start to deteriorate before the average life span. Water logging and heavy traffic leads to overuse of the roads that adds to the problem.
The problem is heightened during monsoon when the roads are filled with water due to the inefficient drainage system. “Roads in Vasant Kunj are no less than a pool. Because water covers the entire length and width of the roads, potholes aren’t visible, that leads to bumpy rides and even collisions with other vehicles. It is difficult to drive, especially during the rains,” Rohit Chawla, a resident of South West Delhi, told MIG.
After witnessing the risky situation in New Delhi, the Public Works Department (PWD), a government agency responsible for designing, constructing and maintaining public infrastructure in the capital, assigned INR 2.5 billion for repair and maintenance of roads after the monsoon ends. 79 roads have been proposed for micro surfacing, that is done to roads whose life can be extended by three-four years and around 65 roads for strengthening, which are in an extremely poor condition and need to be relaid.
An increase in spinal injuries
There has also been a noticeable growth in spinal injuries among people who ride two wheelers while other spinal problems have increased among drivers irrespective of the vehicle.
“Spinal chord holds the back and the neck. Continuous jolts while travelling can lead to back issues and even slip discs,” Ritu Bahl, a doctor in West Delhi, told MIG.
In a way, better management of roads construction and maintenance is a global problem, from governance to health issues. The optimistic way to look at it is that once the situation betters, a lot of issues will be if not solved at least addressed.