It sounds good. All PWD roads in Kerala will be made motorable by September 9, said Minister for Public Works V.K. Ibrahim Kunju.
The minister said Ernakulam had been allotted Rs 76 crore for repairing roads and set the deadline for filling up potholed PWD and KSTP roads.
But the job, it seems, will at best be patch-up work.
Talking to reporters after a review meeting held here on Monday, he said heavy maintenance and resurfacing works will be done after the rains. “Contractors who failed to do proper resurfacing and repair works prior to the rains will be blacklisted if they failed to restore roads as per specifications.”
On why contractors who deliberately delayed road works and undertook them a week before the rains were not blacklisted, Mr Kunju said they often challenge the move to blacklist them in the court. “The PWD is revising norms so that contractors can be held accountable for their inaction and inferior quality works.”
Quoting a recent Cabinet decision, he said contractors would have to give performance guarantee for all road works, from October 1.
He warned of initiating criminal action against KWA, KSEB and telephone firms if they dug up roads between May and October. “Even during other months, the permission of the coordination committee chaired by Collector is mandatory.”
And the reporters were quick to put forth a sample road to gauge the seriousness of the promised criminal action. When pointed out that KWA has dug up S.N. Junction at Tripunithura even while PWD is undertaking repair works over the portion that KWA dug up in May-June, he said the department had to often yield to ‘social pressure’. He refused to state whether ‘criminal action’ will be taken against the agency.
When asked why PWD’s Tripunithura assistant engineer was transferred twice within a week for insisting that KWA remit restoration fee before digging up SN Junction-Puthiyakavu road, Mr Kunju invoked administrative reasons for shunting her out.
On why the State government is not holding National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) accountable for its inaction in ensuring the upkeep of Edappally-Aroor NH Bypass, he said local-level officials of the agency are accountable only to the agency’s chairman and chief engineer. “But the District Collector (using his majesterial powers) will ensure that the bypass is repaired using NHAI’s funds.”
MLAs blame PWD
MLAs attending the review meeting blamed PWD officials for their apathy and delay in decision-making, which led to most major roads in the district getting damaged in the rains. They demanded action against the officials concerned and also contractors for delaying road repair works till May-end, by which time the monsoon began.
They demanded that officials ensure proper drainage so that roads do not suffer damage due to water logging. The MLAs cited the urgent need to hasten works on the Tripunithura and Kothamangalam bypasses.
Dominic Presentation, MLA spoke of how Chellanam-Pandikudy Road withstood the rains since it was built as per specifications. Hybi Eden, MLA cited how PWD resurfaced the approach road to Edapally overbridge on NH 17 using 20-mm chipping carpet, a standard generally adopted for surfacing by-lanes.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob sought an explanation from PWD officials for their ineptitude in repairing Tiruvankulam Junction and approach roads, which often causes traffic hold lasting for 45 minutes.
Minister for Excise K Babu led the tirade against NHAI’s Kochi project director C.T. Abraham for the shabby condition of Edapally-Aroor Bypass. “We cannot do tarring work in the rain,” Mr Abraham defended himself, unmindful of the fact that potholes were aplenty over Kumbalam-Aroor bridge and at junctions even during summer months.