BENGALURU: Under fire from opposition parties and citizens over the poor state of roads in the state capital, Bengaluru Development Minister K J George says there is no magic wand to rectify everything overnight. However, work has been taken up on a war-footing to fix roads, he said. Attributing heavy rains in the last few weeks and digging of roads by various agencies as major reasons for potholes, the minister said work is on to meet the 15-day deadline set by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to fill potholes. They are also simultaneously working on long-term measures such as white-topping of roads, he said. Excerpts from an interview:
Roads in the city are in a bad state. Why was the situation allowed to deteriorate so much?
We know the problem. Roads in some parts of the city have potholes. In the last 52 days, it rained continuously for over 40 days. However, new roads are not affected much, except in some cases due to overflowing of lakes. If new roads are damaged, contractors will have to repair them. Digging of roads by various agencies is also a major problem. My request to them is to repair the roads once their work is done. The state government and BBMP are doing everything possible. Despite rains we are going ahead with the work to fill up potholes by using cold mix. We know it is not going to stay for long, but we cannot wait for rains to stop. We request people to cooperate.
Three people died in accidents caused by potholes.
What do you mean by pothole deaths? When you are on a road, you slow down for many reasons, may be due to a speed-breaker or because the vehicle ahead of you has slowed down. Can a bus/lorry hit a two-wheeler and also run over the riders just because they slowed down? That is what had happened in the accident on Mysore Road flyover. And, it was a similar reason in another accident in which the pillion rider died. A lorry hit the vehicle when it slowed down. How can you call it a pothole death? These are accidents caused due to rash and negligent driving. It is not that I am not concerned about the safety of people. All I am saying is in these cases, potholes were not the reason.
Will contractors and engineers be held responsible?
Yes. All contractors working with BBMP were called for a meeting and strict instructions were issued to fill potholes. Engineers will be held responsible for quality of works.
Whenever it rains, low-lying areas like HSR Layout get flooded. Are any measures being taken to avoid this?
Storm water drains are planned to handle 7 cm of rain, but we received up to 18cm of rain on some days. Naturally, drains will overflow and areas will be flooded. We are addressing issues in low-lying areas.
BJP says nothing is being done to improve the situation.
BJP is responsible for the mess the city is in today. When they were in power, they did nothing and now they are accusing us. When they (BJP-JDS coalition government) formed BBMP in 2008 by including areas around the city in the corporation limits, they should have planned it well. There were also lots of malpractices in BBMP during the BJP rule. They had taken `8,000 crore loan from various agencies. Where has the money gone? They had not cleared contractors’ bills to the tune of `2,500 crore. BBMP is still clearing those bills. That is the reason contractors are not coming forward to take up BBMP work.
What are the long-term measures being planned to improve the situation?
We are taking several long-term measures, including white-topping of roads as announced by the CM. About 95 km of roads will be white-topped and 20km of major roads will be developed under TenderSURE. These roads will be ready by March 2018. We have no magic wand to rectify everything overnight. But results will be visible soon.
Your take on the demand for integration of Cantonment Metro station with railway station?
I was under the impression that it makes sense to integrate the Metro station with Cantonment railway station. BMRCL officials explained it cannot be done due to technical reasons and measures are being taken to provide hassle-free transit between the two stations. Also, having the Metro station near Cantonment will completely congest the area that is already congested. I am willing to meet elected representatives and explain it.