As the rains nearly draw to a close, Mangalore City Corporation hasn’t yet come out with a concrete plan for filling up potholes. And, indications are that even when the filling process starts, it may not be as “permanent” a solution as it is touted.

MCC Executive engineer G.V. Rajashekhar said that Phase I of the pothole filling process was still being “finalised. The cost estimates or the identification of all potholes have not yet been finalised. We have to consider the availability of funds,” he said.

However, this is just the start of a long process. After the proposals have been fixed, and the budgets allocated – a figure that goes beyond Rs. 1 crore according to a MCC engineer – the process of calling tenders can begin.

Low estimates

As the engineer explains, the government estimates – for costs of material, labour– are much below the actual costs needed to fill potholes. “Because of this, no contractor comes for the tender calls. We call multiple tenders and pressure contractors to take it up,” said the engineer.

However, the process is at the mercy of the rains. “We can’t do it until the rains subside,” Mr. Rajashekhar said. Adding that until then, potholes will be filled with mud and stone dust. However, as Saturday’s rain proved, the “filled” potholes have reappeared.

Political pressure

So, why do potholes reappear at the same spot year after year? An engineer admitted it was because of low quality of works and political pressure. “In actuality, the contractor has to take out the section of road with a pothole and relay it. But, it doesn’t happen because of the insufficient funds given, and also because of pressure from councillors to patch roads in their wards fast”. A councillor admitted pressuring the contractor.

The result is that hairline fractures are inherent in potholes, and during the next rains, percolated water breaks the asphalt in the area, causing the pothole to reappear.

Hanumantha G. Kamat, President, Nagarika Hitarakshana Vedike said: “There is no quality check. In the outskirts, many works are estimated and tendered, but the works are not taken up.” The money would end up in wrong hands.

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