Two key road infrastructure projects in Kochi have become the latest flashpoint between the ruling LDF and opposition UDF in Kerala. Sadly, while the two rivals are engaged in a slugfest over the poor construction of Palarivattom and Vyttila flyovers, Kochiites hoping for solutions to their commuting woes have been turned into helpless spectators. Choking on traffic, Kochi needs road projects and mass transport systems, but what it is getting are badly built roads and bridges, and controversies with potential to stall ongoing projects.
The Palarivattom flyover, built at a cost of Rs 42 crore and opened to traffic in October 2016, developed potholes within three months, and was closed for traffic earlier this year after cracks were seen on its pillars. An investigation revealed serious flaws, indicating large-scale corruption and lapses in construction. The LDF government was quick to point fingers at the previous UDF regime that commissioned the project. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Assembly that the flyover would last only 20 years and repair works would cost Rs 18 crore. But his glee at being able to pin the UDF down on corruption was short-lived when reports of irregularities in the construction of Vyttila flyover surfaced. The Rs 78-crore project, still under construction, was launched by his government. The government suspended an assistant engineer who pointed out the flaws, but dodging allegations of corruption won’t be easy. And the UDF is using the opportunity to return the favour.
Politics aside, what these controversies underline is the magnitude of corruption in public projects. If a flyover that cost Rs 42 crore requires repairs worth Rs 18 crore, that too within three years, one can imagine the level of malpractice. Parties and politicians benefit out of such projects. But the fraud is on the common people, who are being cheated of their money. The government must probe the irregularities in both the projects, and at the same, make sure that adequate rectifications are made and the projects are soon back on track.