Old stone, new bill – this is our BBMP!

See potholes everywhere after the rains for a week or two? Let’s remember that we spent Rs.300 crores tarring the roads just before the elections. That’s literally being washed away. There is a way to deal with potholes, but BBMP doesn’t want to do that. As long as that doesn’t change, we can’t expect better roads.

In most cities around the world, the local government has a small amount of internal capacity too. I.e. they don’t outsource the 100% of their engineering work. About 10% is kept in-house. This means that they have a budget for some materials, a few roadrollers and JCBs, and a bunch of other things.

As a result, as and when potholes form, these in-house assets are deployed to fill them. Particularly on the major roads, this is important. They carry lots of traffic, and there’s no point subjecting so many vehicles to damage by poor roads.

Even without in-house assets, potholes can be tackled swiftly. What we need for this is a forward-contracting system. For a few months before the BBMP Council was formed, we had this. The KA Land Army was given a city-wide contract to fill all potholes, and Rs.5 crore was given to them up-front. As and when they did any filling work, they would get it certified by the local ward engineer and the local traffic sub-inspector, and the amount would be debited from the kitty. Whenever the money ran down, it was topped up.

Without in-house assets or such a forward contract, we have to wait for lots of potholes to form first, and then call for bids from contractors to deal with them. All of that causes delay.

Why was this system ended? Simple. BBMP corporators argued that pothole filling is ‘trivial work’ that can be performed by ‘anyone’, and that there is no need for a large city-wide contract to do this job. Instead, they said, the job should be given to local contractors overseen by the corporators. Translation – the job needs to be given to someone ‘known’ to them.

Hale kallu, hosa billu. Idhe namma BBMP 🙂

Ashwin Mahesh
About Ashwin Mahesh 85 Articles
Ashwin Mahesh has been involved in public policy for Bengaluru through his work with the Karnataka government. The views expressed here are his own. He is a member of the Lok Satta party. He is also CEO of Mapunity Information Services, and a director at Oorvani Media, publisher of Citizen Matters and India Together. He is also a visiting faculty with the Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore.

2 Comments

  1. @Ashwin – appreciate your observations. Potholes appear because of sub-standard laying of bitumen/tar hot mix, non-adherence to required temperature before spreading, thin spreading as against the prescribed thickness, bad compression, bad camber, clogged side drains and silt/ much/garbage filled RWDs. Rates are quoted by contractors keeping in mind the tender conditions and award of contracts is highly skewed and there is a high level nexus between elected reps, officials and contractors. There is rampant corruption while taking check measurements, quality and quantity control assurance are totally overlooked and bills are passed subverting all conditions. WHY CAN’T WE HAVE PLASTIC COATED BITUMEN ROADS THAT LAST ALMOST 5 YEARS? About 10 years ago, I remember that Miller Road was laid with plastic bitumen coated spread and it was appreciated.

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