DEATH BY POTHOLE

Fines should be slapped on in­di­vid­u­als, not agen­cies

DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

Fif­teen thou­sand peo­ple lost their lives due to pot­holes from 2013 to 2017 and the con­di­tion of roads in In­dia con­tinue to pose grave risks to pedes­tri­ans and mo­torists. That’s the ugly re­al­ity in the coun­try where life is no­to­ri­ously cheap and ba­sic ameni­ties like good roads are still a way off. While the Cen­tre and states didn’t find the death toll in­tol­er­a­ble, — ev­i­dent from lack of ac­tion on the ground — the Supreme Court has found it un­ac­cept­able that “such a large num­ber of deaths takes place on roads due to pot­holes”, “prob­a­bly more than those killed at the border or by ter­ror­ists”. The apex court’s rec­om­men­da­tion that Rs 5 lakh to be paid to the vic­tim by the road-own­ing agency, if im­ple­mented, will not only bring suc­cour to the be­reaved fam­ily mem­bers of the de­ceased, but also en­force some amount of ac­count­abil­ity in a sys­tem where cor­rup­tion thrives. How­ever, it may not be enough to just hold au­thor­i­ties such as the mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions, the Na­tional High­ways Au­thor­ity of In­dia, or the state road de­part­ments. An in­sti­tu­tion is face­less and the sys­tem of fines as en­vis­aged by the SC, may not be ef­fec­tive in bring­ing the real cul­prits to book. Hence, the fine should be levied on road con­trac­tors and the em­ploy­ees from the gov­ern­ment agency en­trusted with fi­nal­is­ing the ten­der process and over­see­ing the road-lay­ing/ main­te­nance work. Sin­gling out the per­pe­tra­tors, sham­ing and fin­ing them for dere­lic­tion of duty will bring about a rad­i­cal change. In civic bod­ies across the coun­try, the politi­cian-con­trac­tor nexus is too well-known to bear rep­e­ti­tion here. The same set of con­trac­tors who grease the palms of au­thor­i­ties get plum as­sign­ments even though their work is ex­tremely shoddy. But with the sys­tem of fines, this un­holy link­age can be rup­tured. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties need to demon­strate their will to clean up the sys­tem.

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