Mayor ducks query on contractors; NHAI officials fail to attend meet

Mayor Tony Chammany has blamed actor Jayasurya for resorting to a “third-rate publicity stunt” by filling up potholes along a few city roads using gravel.

The actor, his friends, auto drivers and traffic police personnel volunteered to fill up potholes because of the failure of PWD contractors to repair and resurface roads before the monsoon. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Chammany repeatedly said that Mr. Jayasurya and team should have engaged a contractor to do the job at Menaka and other places, instead of taking the pain of filling them with gravel. However, the “skilled contractors” to whom the PWD had entrusted works had failed to resurface busy roads on time, thus causing traffic hold-ups, wastage of fuel and a spurt in accidents. “We received complaints from two-wheeler riders that the actor’s road restoration work did more harm than good. The ‘loose’ gravel pieces gave away easily, making them vulnerable to skidding. The actor may have acted out of good intention, but the effort appeared to be a pre-planned publicity stunt, going by the presence of videographers and lens men,” he said.

To a question on why he did not blame contractors and the PWD, Mr. Chammany said that he was unaware that contractors had defaulted in doing road repair works. On what Jayasurya and other volunteers should have done, the Mayor said that they should have filed a public interest litigation in court, rather than resort to such deeds. “Or else, he could have staged a protest demo,” Mr. Chammany said.

It may be recalled that traffic police personnel and auto drivers had filled potholes on NH 47 at Edappally using gravel a week ago, since NHAI did nothing to repair them. He said the corporation was awaiting ‘favourable weather’ to repair potholed roads owned by it, ignoring the fact that the agency did little to repair or reinforce bad roads during summer months.

In the meantime, District Collector Sheikh Pareeth said the PWD had been asked to speed up road repair works. The NHAI is expected to begin repairs of NH 47 and the Edappally-Aroor NH Bypass from August 5.

Saturday’s District Development Committee meeting saw MLAs blame the PWD and NHAI for the pathetic plight of arterial roads and National Highways passing through Ernakulam. “The agencies must emulate the road resurfacing done by Kochi Metro Rail Ltd and DMRC as part of Kochi Metro’s preparatory works. Only these roads and the road leading to the international airport have withstood the monsoon,” said Ludy Luiz, MLA. Anwar Sadath, MLA, blamed NHAI officials who did not attend the meeting despite the pathetic plight of the highways and bridges along them. Hybi Eden, MLA, blamed the contractor who tarred the approach roads to Edappally overbridge over a year ago for its dilapidated condition.

More In: Kochi