Potholes on the roads have become an annual affair for Kochi, one of the leading metropolises in India. The recent Palarivattom flyover fiasco demands the audit of road repair works done in the past 10 years to find out the materials used, expertise of the contractor, government agencies involved, loss to the state exchequer in terms of recurring expenditure incurred to repair the damage, loss of productive man-hours, pollution due to traffic congestion and impact on the state economy.
Many lives are lost on the streets due to the inordinate delay for the ambulances to reach hospitals during an emergency. The recurrent issues expose the lack of ownership or passing the buck, unaccountability and the colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. The agencies responsible for these issues lack coordination and there is a need for a single agency at the local level.
This is possible only by building capacity of the local self-government body to oversee the works done by various agencies. The roads which are now under different agencies should be handed over to a single agency at the local level in the city limits. Moreover, it should develop the guidelines and framework for street management and work under the Executive Council of Kochi Corporation under the leadership of the Mayor.
The decisions on the local tax collection and revenue generation should be handed over to the Corporation so that a part of the money collected goes for street development. In the process, the roads and streets will improve as the local citizens will ensure accountability of the Corporation for the money spent and the work undertaken.
Residents and civil society organisations can also conduct street audits every six months to strengthen the delivery in a democratic governance system that we follow. Unless more power and responsibilities are handed over to the local self-government, a direct democracy envisioned at the local level will remain a dream.
D Dhanuraj, chairperson,Centre for Public Policy Research