The death of a woman last Saturday after she fell into an open drain has been kicking up a storm over the past three days in the city’s administrative circles.

The debate around the issue has been centred on the question of who exactly is responsible for the proper maintenance of the drains on the city roads. Most of the ire for the open drains was directed at the Corporation authorities.

Two government orders (GO) issued in September 2011 and January 2012 seems to suggest that the responsibility lies with the Public Works Department (PWD).

The GO dated September 23, 2011, says that 19 roads in the city will be handed over to the PWD as part of a one-time maintenance programme. The ‘Pushpa Junction – Model School Junction road via Railway station – Oyitty Road –Town Hall – Annie Hall Road’ is one of the roads listed as part of the Rs.40.19-crore project. This is the road on which the accident occurred.

A second GO dated January 7, 2012, says that ‘in exercise of the powers conferred by the Kerala Highway Protection Act, 1999, the Government of Kerala hereby declare the roads mentioned in the schedule as highways and classify them as Major District Roads.’

‘Oyitty Road’

The above-said road is one of the roads mentioned in the list. However, the name of the road is just mentioned as Oyitty Road.

“There is no doubt that both roads are the same as the distance of 2.5 km mentioned in the second GO can be possibly due to the entire stretch. Oyitty Road is just half a km. The PWD has carried out maintenance work on drains at other roads taken over as part of the project. They have the responsibility of providing slabs on the drains beside all the roads that they have taken up,” said Corporation Mayor A.K. Premajam.

P.N. Sasikumar, Executive engineer of the Roads and Bridges division of the PWD, told The Hindu that there is no point in the blame game.

“It is still not clear whether the road comes under the major district roads, as the government order on January 7, 2012, mentions only Oyitti Road. We have written for a clarification in this regard,” he said.

Mr. Sasikumar said the PWD carried out works on the road where the accident happened as part of the one-time maintenance programme. “We had provided slabs in front of the shops. At other places, especially in front of the hospital, there was no way to provide slabs as there was no support on the wall’s side,” he said.

The PWD will conduct inspections of all the 19 roads on Wednesday and carry out maintenance work on slabs on an emergency basis.

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