Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Pothole drama in Bangalore

There is a hilarious drama playing out on India's Silicon Capital. And paradoxically it is in the city's potholes. Obviously, the ride on our bikes is in no way hilarious, but the way our civic officials are trying to come to grips with these roads, very much is.
Eversince enlightened voters of Karnataka voted out the progressive Krishna government in May, there has been no government worth the name. And what we see on the roads is nothing but a reflection of this maladministraion.
Potholes are, in fact, nothing new on Indian roads. Anyway nothing lasts for long these days; and, why should roads be an exception. By the same logic, neither should potholes last this long. They never did. The frequent wear and tear of roads used be to as frequently repaired. But no longer. Result: the horror of driving. That's not hilarious. Residents are getting restive. Resentment is getting vocal and quite demonstrative.  
But someone is having good fun. That's the government officials. As newspapers began carrying photos and reports of potholes, the government (just to make it appear it is working) issued a deadline to get these roads repaired. The vigilant media made a reality check and found nothing had changed. Another barrage of reports and photos. Another deadline. Another joke.
Media stepped up attack. Another deadline. Again, the media did a reality check. Finally, something seemed to have been done. Even if not complete asphalting, some patches had been levelled and made motorable. With a sense of accomplishment, the mayor made a declaration that all potholes had been levelled. But the media said he was wrong.
Then came the most dramatic declaration by the mayor. For each photo of pothole published in newspapers the area engineer will be fined Rs 1,000. The media sprang back with renewed vigour. The civic reporters of my newspaper actually went to the spot and counted the potholes. We published as many photos as possible. Other newspapers too did. We lost count of potholes. With as many as we counted, we calculated how much all these potholes are worth. There was some confusion, though. Since some photos showed more than one pothole, it wasn't clear whether the mayor will take it as Rs 1,000 per photo or per pothole.
An exasperated mayor said he will review the situation on October 3. And, he did. Officials went with newspaper cuttings trying to identify the potholes. And he identified them. But, found just seven in the whole of Bangalore! And engineers were levied a token fine Rs 1,000.
But, how come just seven? The mayor makes a distinction -- between potholes which had been neglected by the engineers (who had been on a round of repairs) and fresh potholes created by heavy rain. How he could make that out is a mystery.
But what takes the cake is mayor's statement: "We can't cover the entire city with umbrellas!"
Bangalore's pothole diary will continue....

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