The State Finance Department has promised the Public Works Department (PWD) that it would make more funds available for maintenance and upkeep of roads considering the pathetic condition most of them are in.
The PWD that constructs and maintains a majority of the road network claims to be in a “tricky position” as adequate funds are not available either for reconstruction or maintenance of major roads.
Responding to a series of reports on roads appearing in these columns, PWD Principal Secretary E. Venkataiah said that major district roads (MDRs) are a big concern for the department.
While at least Rs. 1 lakh per km is required for annual maintenance of MDRs (single-lane roads), the government provides only a quarter of it, at Rs. 25,000 a km. “It is impossible to maintain roads in good condition with this amount,” he said. On the other hand, the maintenance grant for State Highways (two-lane roads) is about Rs. 1 lakh a km while in reality at least Rs. 2 lakh a km is required, he said.
Mr. Venkataiah said that he held discussions recently with the Finance Department which has promised to make more funds available.
The State budget proposal to introduce the earlier “gangmen” system too should help the department in maintaining the roads, he said.
This system entailed a group of workers being assigned specific stretches of SHs and MDRs for maintenance on a daily basis. This system was withdrawn after the government went for build-maintenance system where the contractor building/ reconstructing the road was supposed to maintain the road for a specific period of time.
Mr. Venkataiah also said that the taxes collected from vehicles in different forms were insufficient to the growing demand for road network and hence, the government is opting for public-private partnership (PPP) and tolled roads. Still, not many private partners were willing to partner in the projects given the volatile situation in the infrastructure sector, he said.
PWD Secretary Sadashivareddy B. Patil said that while heavy rain damaged roads in the Malnad region, black cotton soil was responsible for bad roads in the northern parts of the State. “Both areas require strong foundation for roads, which unfortunately was not built while laying roads,” he said.