BMC’s claim of 80% drop in pothole complaints may be far from the truth
Since the onset of monsoon last week, multiple media reports have highlighted the pressing issue of potholes and the resultant traffic snarls in the maximum city.
Every year, the city’s civic body assures residents and Bombay High Court of fixing potholes before the arrival of monsoon, only to disappoint. While the BMC isn’t responsible for fixing every pothole in the city, since a few highways are under the purview of Public Works Department, most fall under its jurisdiction.
This year, the monsoon was a little delayed, hitting the city on June 28. Since then, the BMC claims to have received 284 pothole complaints, of which only 60 are pending repairs. If one compares the fact that Mumbai’s road networks stretches over 2000 kms, 60 unrepaired potholes seems like a job well done.
But, before we start patting anyone on the back, there’s one aspect that we need to consider. One that can possibly change the way we perceive our current ‘pothole situation’.
Last year, in the same one week period starting June 28, citizens had reported 1,422 potholes. When compared to 2016, it implies a drop of almost 80 percent. But are there really 80 percent less potholes compared to last year?
If you think not, then that’s where the BMC data starts getting ‘less meaningful’. Last year, all pothole related complaints were registered on the BMC’s pothole tracking system. It supported GPS, allowed citizens to report realtime and guaranteed a response within 48 hours.
While the system was functionally cohesive, the civic body had to scrap the system after it failed to receive sufficient bids. Following which, the BMC announced that it will accept pothole complaints via their helpline, a new mobile application and social media pages.
Here’s the catch though. The newer modes of accepting complaints aren’t interconnected, implying that if a complaint was made to a ward officer instead of their app, the pothole may still get fixed but it won’t reflect in the BMC’s total pothole tally.
According to a senior BMC official who wished to remain unnamed, “The number that the civic body declares is the one that it can accumulate from sources like Facebook and mobile app, where it’s easy to track each case. But it is difficult to collate data from sources that are more ‘people-dependant’. So we might have got more complaints and fixed more potholes, but the reporting is not completely accurate.”
The official also added that the helpline numbers, 1292 and 1293, that are being used for reporting potholes aren’t dedicated to it. The numbers were being used by the civic body to accept illegal hoarding complaints prior to monsoon.
For motorists, the biggest loss is the lack of transparency and accountability. According to S.Kasable, who has filed multiple complaints each year, “The BMC just needs to accept complaints via one mode and ensure that citizens know who is working on their complaint and by when it will be fixed. The BMC bosses might think that they are making everyone’s lives easier by accepting complaints via these different modes, but what is the point if they themselves aren’t sure how many people have complained where and what is the status of each complaint.”