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Kolkata’s roads

Editorial |

The boast of the Mayor of Kolkata that “the roads here are in a better condition than in the rest of the country” may not, after all, be wholly off the mark. The truth is that the city’s roads may actually be better than those in Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru.

Lutyens’ Delhi has excellent roads but beyond that rarefied enclave the road conditions, including on highways that run through the city, are pathetic. It is really a race for the wooden spoon.

At least Kolkata’s authorities are talking about the need to fix roads post monsoon; elsewhere even the conversation is muted. Yet the taxpayer is scarcely impressed with the splitting of hairs over jurisdiction ~ roads that are under the remit of KMC and those that are the KMDA’s responsibility.

This isn’t the occasion to make “overfine distinctions”, to summon the expression of the lexicon. Mr Sovan Chatterjee’s claim might chime oddly with the Chief Minister’s imprimatur to the civic authorities to urgently carry out road repairs across the city.

Deadline after deadline for repair, and set by the municipal commissioner, has been missed. Those helming the red-brick building on SN Banerjee Road would now appear to have gone on overdrive in the wake of Mamata Banerjee’s telephone call to the Commissioner.

Having dragged their feet for as long as they did, the municipal authorities have been remarkably preposterous to fix a certain deadline ~ within 24 hours ~ one that they are acutely aware is almost impossible to achieve. In the 48-hour time-span between Saturday ~ when the CM called ~ and Monday, road conditions remain ever so wretched. And the risk that confronts both the pedestrian and the motorist is dangerously real.

The state of affairs must be pretty serious when we reflect that the municipal commissioner, Mr Khalil Ahmed, has directed KMC’s Director-General (roads) to ensure that instructions are followed and disciplinary action is taken against those who fail to abide by the time-frame.

It would be an under-statement to merely highlight the craters and potholes; some of the thoroughfares are so battered that they appear to have been bombed.

The general condition lends no scope for quick-fixes; running repairs and a coat of tar will not be enough. The quality of the “hot-mix” will henceforth be regularly monitored.

Clearly, the basics have hitherto been given the short shrift. The almost endemic damage that has been wrought in recent years calls for a drastic and fundamental revamp.

Maybe the monsoon will militate against such an exercise. But the excuse of the season only reaffirms that little or nothing was effected during the dry spell ~ from November to June.

Reports suggest that the Mayor is yet to identify the roads that cry out for repair. Mr Chatterjee has made the belated admission that not all the entities that have been drafted for the task may have the wherewithal. The work calls for a degree of seriousness, sometimes a scarce commodity at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.