The sinking feeling in a waterlogged city and the deadly potholes are not limited to Mumbai alone. Kalyan in Thane district near Mumbai has reported five pothole deaths this monsoon. The latest accident involved a 26-year old local resident Kalpesh Jadhav who was run over by a truck after he slipped and fell down because of a pothole.
Around 50 kms from Mumbai, Kalyan city is an urban nightmare with roads that are often lost in potholes. On Friday morning, Kalpesh Jadhav died after the scooty he was riding hit a pothole. The man fell off his scooty and he was run over by a truck near the Gandhari Bridge in Kalyan. Jadhav's friend Ajay Sawant told reporters, "We were told by the police that the pothole was 11 inches deep and six feet wide. This is the fault of the KDMC (Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation)."
On Wednesday, a labourer believed to be in his forties and identified as Anna, died after he slipped and fell into one such pothole and lost his balance. He fell on his face and a passing truck ran over him killing him on the spot.
But what has come to light is what suggests criminal neglect by the civic authorities. The Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation had a budget of Rs 9 crore for pothole repairs before monsoon last year but it spent only Rs 1 crore. Money that could have been spent to fill up potholes remained unspent as citizens continue to drive on dangerous roads. This year Rs 12 crore has been provisioned, from which most of it has not been utilized.
Kapil Patil, an independent local corporator says, "The death of that man (Anna) could have been prevented and the other three deaths could be prevented. The administration is responsible and a case should be registered against them."
Last Friday afternoon, a woman was run over by the rear wheels of a truck after the motorbike she was on hit an uneven stretch of road. Manisha Bhoir, who worked at a school in Thane's Kalyan, was going home with a family member when the accident took place. In the CCTV footage that captured the incident, Ms Bhoir can be seen riding pillion as she holds up an umbrella in the pouring rain.
NCP Leader Dhannajay Munde attacked the government over the spate of potholes deaths. "A couple of days ago, the PWD Minister of Maharashtra had said that they've filled up all of the potholes of Maharashtra. And now we've made a pothole free Maharashtra. But today, it's not just Kalyan but in fact a lot of places have been subjected to the same fate. We've seen a lot of potholes in Maharashtra and many of them have taken people's lives," he told reporters in Nagpur which also saw flooding last week.
Sensing public anger over poor state of affairs the Congress party also protested at a potholed road in the Sion suburb of Mumbai. Targeting the Sena-BJP combine and placing lotuses, the symbol of the BJP, on potholes after filling them up, Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam told NDTV, "The Shiv Sena - BJP are completely in denial mode. They are claiming all potholes have been filled up. The incompetent Commissioner of the BMC has claimed yesterday that everything in Mumbai is alright. We want to expose them. We want to give them a wakeup call."
But the local corporator from the Shiv Sena told NDTV, "We have taken over this area from MHADA and now it's under the BMC. Now we have issued tenders and work is going on the entire road and we are installing storm water drains."
However what citizens are now demanding is action against those who are responsible potholes instead of simply sweeping the issue under the carpet. Every time there is a road accident, the police simply book the driver thereby allowing those who are responsible for potholes on the road to get away easy. Locals in Kalyan believe this has to stop if the problem of potholes have to be resolved.